Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 173 (January 27, 2005)
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
Three years and nine months ago when I was inaugurated as Prime Minister of Japan, I expressed my firm resolve to advance structural reform under the belief that we must fearlessly embrace the difficulties ahead, unflinchingly overcome barriers of fixed interests and unquestioningly free ourselves of past experiences in order to restore the stagnating Japanese economy and to build a society brimming with confidence and pride.
Various criticisms have been leveled as I have advanced the reforms, for example, that the policy of "without reform there will be no growth" is like repairing a house with its windows wide open during a storm. Instead, critics have urged that the reform should be advanced only after realizing economic growth and that the priority should be "without growth there will be no reform."
Since my inauguration, I have advanced structural reform under the policies of "from the public sector to the private sector" and "from the state to the region" amidst unremitting tension and constant pressure. As a result, motivation to face new challenges and confidence in the belief that "if you do it, it will happen" are finally emerging in Japanese society.
Looking at the recent economic situation, the overall economy is continuing on a path of moderate recovery, despite difficulties being faced in some regions and among some small- and medium-sized enterprises. With the implementation of financial, taxation, regulatory and expenditure reforms aiming to overcome deflation and realize economic vitalization, the main banks have reduced their outstanding non-performing loans by 15 trillion yen in the past two and a half years and the non-performing loan ratio is now down to the 4 percent range. In this way, the government has succeeded in shining a light to the end of the tunnel for the resolution of the negative equity that emerged with the burst of the bubble.
The number of corporate bankruptcies is continuing on a decreasing trend, recording a year-on-year decrease for the past 28 consecutive months.
Difficulties still remain regarding employment, but as far as the statistics show, the figures on employment are rapidly improving. For instance, the unemployment rate that surged to 5.5 percent two years ago has decreased to 4.5 percent. This is the lowest figure for five years and ten months. The effective supply and demand ratio of the labor force, which indicates the ratio of the number of jobseekers to the number of jobs offered by corporations, has also improved to 0.92 in recent days compared to the low of 0.5 three years ago. We have not seen such a high ratio in eleven years and ten months.
We are finally beginning to see the results of the creation of an environment in which deregulation gives the private sector and local governments the freedom to exert their own skills and abilities instead of having to rely on the central government and public works projects.
The Diet will start deliberations on the supplementary budget and the budget for FY2005 from today. Included in the supplementary budget are expenses necessary for measures against disasters, such as the Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake. As for the budget for FY2005, we have continued to reduce the budget for public projects and defense and have reduced the amount of general expenditure to below the previous year's level for the first time in three years. We have also reduced new government bond issuance for the first time in four years. The only areas in which we have increased the budget are social security and promotion of science and technology.
Starting today, deliberations on the budget will take place daily from early in the morning to late into the evening. I will give my all to gain the approval of the Diet on the supplementary budget and the budget for FY2005 at the earliest date possible in order to enhance the measures against disasters and for economic revitalization.
* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.
- Awards Ceremony for the Japan Professional Sports Grand Prize
(January 24, 2005)
- General Policy Speech by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to
the 162nd Session of the Diet (January 21, 2005)
- The First Meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy
(January 20, 2005)
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