The sakura cherry blossoms have now come into full bloom in Tokyo as well. Japan was struck by tremendous spring storms all around the country in the first half of the week. Despite this, how has everything been going for you here at the beginning of the new fiscal year? I am sure that there are many people who have been taking the first steps of new phases in their lives with various thoughts in their minds.
Yesterday the national budget for fiscal 2012 was enacted. Although we needed to develop a provisional budget after failing to achieve enactment of the budget by the end of March, I am now quite relieved at having somehow managed to bring about the enactment of the main budget.
The national budget transforms our policies into various public services and is directly connected with people’s lives. I consider this to be the most important link connecting ‘the government’ and ‘the people.’
The quintessential example of this is social security. Under the budget for this fiscal year, if we leave out payments of principal and interest for money borrowed in years past, tax revenues allocated to local governments, and the like, a staggering roughly half of our general expenditures are allocated to social security.
Steady implementation of the budget is also absolutely essential in order to provide underlying support for the Japanese economy. In particular, the budget for this fiscal year includes costs (of some 3.8 trillion yen) for reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, as well as “a budget scheme to prioritize the rebirth of Japan” (of 1 trillion yen), which is designed to create a revitalized Japan.
In order to protect people’s daily lives, get the economy moving, and sow the seeds of future growth, this budget must be implemented without fail. I believe that the eradication of wasteful budget items is also not something of a nature in which we can simply say “parts A and B are wasteful, so let’s eliminate them and then we’re through.” Instead, what is most important is tireless measures that are constantly vigilant in checking the situation.
That said, if we were so intent on “seeking out waste” that the quality of public services which must fundamentally be provided declined more than necessary, that would be a case of concentrating on the circumstances instead of the main issue, so balance is essential. Within the government and the ruling parties we have held multiple thorough discussions in order to seek out areas of common ground.
The 1 trillion yen for the “budget scheme to prioritize the rebirth of Japan” was squeezed out through trimming down the budget of each ministry. Budget allocations for public works projects have also been reduced in the aggregate for three years running, with more than roughly thirty percent cut compared to the days before the DPJ took the reins of government. This spending level is less than half that of the peak in 1997. Of course, some has been allocated towards a bold collection of “concrete intended to protect human life,” in order to reinforce the disaster prevention countermeasures grounded in the lessons learned from the great earthquake disaster.
This budget was debated at great length by the ruling and opposition parties in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. I myself attended close to 150 hours of deliberations in the upper and lower houses of the Diet and have tackled this in a very careful manner.
While the bills covering the issuance of the bonds that provide the backing for this budget have yet to receive the understanding of the opposition parties, the issuance of deficit-financing bonds would be unavoidable regardless of whose administration compiled the budget. As these are also essential for its prompt implementation, I intend to continue to work tenaciously to persuade the opposition parties on this matter.
Today I gave an address to newly-appointed national civil servants at Yoyogi’s National Olympics Memorial Youth Center, which was entirely surrounded by sakura cherry trees in full bloom. In it I incorporated the message that I wanted them to be people who are true assets as “civil servants”, who understand the subtleties of humaneness and who maintain their aspiration, fully serving for our society.
New encounters provide color to new stages in our lives. I very much hope that this is a spring in which hope for the future comes to be seen dwelling in people’s eyes.