As of yesterday, it has been one month since I assumed the office of Prime Minister. During this time, I sprinted with my utmost energy through responses to damages from the torrential rains of typhoons #12 and #15, through attendance at the United Nations General Assembly, query sessions at the Diet by representatives of political parties, and Budget Committee sessions.
My personal life has changed dramatically compared with my life before I took office. Turning on the TV and happening by pure chance to see a comedian doing an imitation of me was a more or less unexpected occurrence. I think that this is an honor in some sense, as it is indicative of the magnitude of the public's expectations, and it is also a phenomenon expressing the gravity of the prime minister's official responsibilities. I felt once again that I must steel myself as I engage in my duties.
Upon returning from the United States, last week at the Budget Committee sessions of both Houses of the Diet, I responded to questions from both the ruling and opposition parties regarding the critical issues to be addressed by this administration and the future directions our efforts will take. While each party and each parliamentary group may take a different approach, I think I was able to confirm that we do not have major gaps among us regarding the matter of "what we should do now." The opposition parties at times expressed harsh views, but I also received a large number of constructive recommendations. For this, I am very grateful.
Among these, I took very seriously the matter of the housing complex for government employees in Asaka, Saitama Prefecture whose construction is just getting underway, which had been pointed out to me as an issue. Today I toured the construction site, where I could confirm with my own eyes the state of progress of construction and so on. At the end of last year, the team of the three political-level appointees at the Ministry of Finance―including myself as the minister, the senior vice minister, and the parliamentary secretary―made a comprehensive decision that this project would, among other aspects, also "contribute to fostering the local community."
However, through the course of Diet debates, I came to feel once more that it is imperative for us to properly consider public sentiment, particularly that among the people affected by the disaster, against the backdrop of a tremendous amount of fiscal resources being required for reconstruction from the great earthquake and tsunamis and the fact that a very large number of disaster victims are leading lives of great inconvenience in temporary housing as we head into winter. Fortunately, although the construction site is still technically at the stage of "groundbreaking," in fact it is at a stage at which the pile driving has not even been completed, and it is thus possible to bring construction to a halt. At the site, at which there remain a number of older trees of considerable height, local citizens had also gathered to voice their opposition to the construction, and I noticed that in the surrounding area there was a diversity of opinions about the matter.
Considering these circumstances, after undertaking very careful consideration, a little while ago I instructed Minister of Finance Jun Azumi, the minister in charge, to put the project on hold at least for the five years that will be the period in which reconstruction will be conducted intensively.
The people earnestly continuing their reconstruction efforts in the disaster-stricken areas and people in small and medium-sized enterprises struggling with the appreciation of the yen are all awaiting the execution of countermeasures. We must submit the draft third supplementary budget and the related bills to the Diet as soon as possible.
As we move forward with consultations among the ruling and opposition parties, I intend to listen humbly when I receive good proposals from the opposition parties and the entire spectrum of Japanese society, as was the case with this issue of the housing complex for government employees in Asaka.
On Saturday last week, cleanup work and other such matters were finally completed, thereby finishing the preparations for me to move into the Prime Minister's official residence, situated next to the Prime Minister's Office. From now on, I intend to press down even more firmly on the accelerator, shift to a higher gear, and with a sense of speed work to bring about various policies.