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Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.25 (April 2, 2009)

"Policy mobilization for peace of mind and vitality"
-- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Taro AsoProfile Japanese

I am now in London to attend a summit on financial markets and the world economy. Above the city, the skies are clear for once. This is my first visit to London in a long while, and I was surprised that the streets were remarkably clean. It is probably because the economy was in good shape until the middle of last year.

At the summit, I intend to make use of Japan's experiences and actively exercise leadership, to strengthen global-scale collaboration for the world economy to get back on a growth track.

On Friday last week, the budget for fiscal 2009 and its related laws were enacted. I have stated that the foremost economic countermeasures would be the early enactment of the budget. Coupled with the two supplementary budgets of the previous fiscal year, this enactment completes the "three-stage rocket" of economic countermeasures.

In the budget for the new fiscal year, we are strengthening the security of the lives of non-regular employees by shortening the eligibility criteria for employment insurance. Until now, it was limited to people likely to be employed for at least one year, but this has been shortened to six months. Employment insurance premiums will also be reduced. For an average household with an annual income of 5 million yen, for example, the premiums to be borne by the company and the household will be reduced by around 20,000 yen a year.

We have taken a variety of focused measures for the people to live their daily lives with peace of mind, such as securing a sufficient number of doctors, enhancing support for emergency medical institutions, and strengthening countermeasures against pandemic influenza.

Remuneration for nursing care will be increased by 3% so as to improve the working conditions of nursing care personnel and secure sufficient human resources. We will also expand the support available to enable people to give birth and raise their children without concern by taking measures such as raising the one-off childbirth and child-rearing allowance to 420,000 yen.

I am pleased to say that the first and second supplementary budgets of fiscal 2008, which are already being implemented, have achieved significant results.

There have been some 500,000 cases to date of small and medium enterprises taking advantage of financial assistance in the forms of emergency credit guarantees and special loans, for a total of 10 trillion yen of assistance implemented. This has led to the job security of over 3 million people.

As for highway tolls in the regions, [a new toll structure of] "a maximum of 1,000 yen on weekends and holidays, regardless of the distance traveled" was introduced on the 28th. A large number of people have already taken advantage of this. Apparently, the tourist attractions around the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge and the Aqua-line, which had introduced the new toll structure earlier, have witnessed a return to prosperity.

Maternity checkups have become essentially free-of-charge.

Most local governments will start the provision of a fixed-sum stipend by the end of April. I have heard from people who already received the stipend. Please use it to boost consumption.

The economy is facing an increasingly severe situation. The most recent announcement on the employment situation was that the ratio of active job openings to applicants had fallen below 0.6 for the first time in six years. Domestic car production in February also fell to below half that of the previous year. The Japanese economy is currently in a situation that can be called an economic crisis, and this is quite alarming.

Last month, I heard a wide range of opinions from over 80 experts across a total of ten fields. We need to gather the wisdom of the whole of Japan, and fight this crisis as one unified nation.

Facing this situation head-on, just before I departed for London I instructed the government and the ruling coalition to formulate new economic countermeasures.

The government will take the greatest possible measures with bold thinking, not to be constrained by what has happened thus far. I refer to this as policy mobilization for peace of mind and vitality.

There are three things that must be done: to prevent business activity from slumping further; to secure employment and ease the pain of the people; and to ensure that these efforts lead to a reinforcement of Japan's future growth.

We will create a fourth-stage of the rocket, in order to escape the economic crisis. Considerations will be advanced promptly focusing on the abovementioned three points, so that the government and the ruling coalition combine their strengths to determine the specifics of policies, with the aim of announcing them around mid-April.

The greatest mission that I bear is to ensure economic recovery. With firm resolve, I will implement the best possible policies in a focused manner.

North Korea has announced that it would launch a flying object between the 4th of the month and the 8th. The launch would violate the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The launch of a flying object by North Korea is a provocative act which undermines the peace and stability of not only Northeast Asia, including Japan, but also of the international community. Such an act is absolutely intolerable. The government will continue strongly urging North Korea to restrain from the launch, in close cooperation with countries around the world.

Supposing that the launch is indeed to be made, I have instructed the Minister of Defense to issue an order for destruction measures and we have heightened our state of alert, to prepare for every eventuality.

Should North Korea force through the launch, I will immediately inform the people of it using means such as television and radio. The government will take every measure possible to defend the safety of the people's daily lives.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Taro Aso
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Jun Matsumoto
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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