Prime Minister NODA's BLOG

From the end of April into May, there have been tragic accidents, damages from tornadoes, and so on, one after another. My heart aches each time I am informed of such an event. I have been giving instructions to relevant official to respond through bracing up even for such unanticipated situations.

The memory of the accident in Kyoto in which a vehicle plowed into a line of elementary school children on their way to school in a group was still vivid when the tragic fatal accident involving a long-distance express tour bus occurred on the Kan-etsu Expressway at the end of last month. Even during my trip to the United States, I saw and heard Japanese news reports on these topics and they weighed heavy on my mind.

I am at a loss for words when I think of the people who died from these unexpected accidents just before Golden Week, which is supposed to be a fun time, and think of their families. I offer my prayers for the repose of their souls.

While the investigation is still ongoing, violations of the law must be dealt with strictly. In addition, if there are any inadequacies in the system, they must be corrected as swiftly as possible in order to enable thoroughgoing safety measures and accident prevention.

On a personal note, today I took the procedures to renew my driver's license. While the opportunities for me to drive have decreased drastically, I underwent the refresher course given to drivers at license renewal time and I took to heart once more the importance of safe driving.

Speaking in general terms, as the result of easing up a number of regulations, convenience for consumers has increased through the expansion of new services, and yet at the same time some "warping" has also appeared here and there through which some people have excessive burdens shifted onto them or face increases in hidden risks in various societal settings.

I recognize the work to review such matters from the perspective of "putting the people's lives first" as being among the major issues for this administration to engage in.

As for the long-distance express tour bus incident, we will move swiftly to introduce new systems to ensure that over-strained driving does not become an everyday affair as a result of an escalation in competition. This will include among other things re-examining the modalities of operators' itinerary management and operations management, as well as reviewing standards regarding drivers' working hours and duty periods.

On the 6th, tornadoes struck Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures out of the blue, with a junior high school student losing his life in Ibaraki and numerous people injured. A large number of homes also suffered damage and some people have been forced to take emergency shelter at great inconvenience. I send my sincere condolences and sympathies once more to all the people who have been affected.

The government is moving forward with investigating the state of damage and assisting the people affected by the disaster, including through the dispatch of a government inspection team headed by Mr. Yoshinori Suematsu, Senior Vice Minister of the Cabinet Office, to the affected areas on the morning of the 7th. I was briefed in detail by Vice Minister Suematsu the other day on the situation in the disaster areas, immediately after his return from the affected areas. Some of the traces of the tornadoes are truly dreadful. I feel as though we have been showed once more the threats posed by nature, albeit in a different form from the great earthquake we experienced earlier.

Relevant ministries and agencies are working in cooperation, making all-out efforts to provide assistance in terms of both materials and human resources to the people and the local communities struck by the disaster. In addition, I have given instructions for the government to launch a team to consider ways to make it possible to create sufficient countermeasures for large-scale tornado damage and to compile its findings as soon as possible.

Yesterday, Diet debate on the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems finally began in earnest. I also urged the opposition parties to "engage in constructive debate for the sake of Japan and the Japanese people and for the sake of the next generation, which will shoulder responsibility for the future." "Politics capable of making decisions" under the principles of democracy should be underpinned by broad-minded debate. We should undertake extensive discussions in order to yield better results.

Of course, national policy issues are by no means limited to the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems. The ruling party must take responsibility and be engaged in all matters.

There is no need to repeat the fact that a great number of issues lie before us. In particular, there is no "holiday" from disaster preparation or crisis management, whether we are discussing earthquakes, heavy rains, or tornadoes. I will continue to be engaged in these matters vigilantly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan
May 9, 2012

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