Abe: Greatest reform drive since war’s end

Abe: Greatest reform drive since war’s end
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a policy speech at a plenary session of the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed on Thursday his resolve to tackle "the greatest reforms" since the end of World War II in areas such as regional vitalization and security policy, and to break entrenched "bedrock" regulations in such fields as agricultural administration, labour and the electric power system.

In a policy speech he delivered at the plenary session of the House of Representatives, Abe also referred to the recent hostage crisis involving two Japanese nationals captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group, saying, "I find it extremely regrettable that the Japanese citizens fell victim to acts of terrorism." He stressed again that Japan will continue its humanitarian assistance and implement every possible means to ensure the safety of Japanese both at home and overseas.

It was Abe's first policy speech since he inaugurated his third Cabinet in December.

Abe especially emphasised economic rehabilitation, social security reform and regional vitalization, as well as the rebuilding of foreign relations and national security.

"A rocky road lies ahead of all of these goals - the greatest reform effort since the end of the war," Abe said. "However, we must undauntedly make progress in carrying out these reforms."

Regarding a recent agreement between the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu), and the government and the Liberal Democratic Party on agricultural cooperative reforms, including JA-Zenchu's transformation into a general incorporated association, Abe called it "the first reform of agricultural cooperatives in 60 years."

Abe stressed that the government will push forward structural reforms to make the agricultural sector more competitive.

The prime minister also expressed enthusiasm toward an early conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, saying the negotiations "are reaching the final phase, with a probable conclusion finally coming into sight."

With regards to nuclear power policy, Abe said the government will proceed with the reactivation of idled nuclear reactors after Nuclear Regulation Authority approval that they meet new safety standards.

Regarding his Abenomics economic policy package, Abe said it has been achieving results. He also mentioned the postponement of a planned increase in the consumption tax rate from 8 per cent to 10 per cent and said, "We will simultaneously realise economic revitalisation, fiscal reconstruction and social security reform."

On foreign and security policies, Abe said - with a statement he plans to issue in summer on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in mind - Japan will convey to the world the steps it has taken as a pacifist nation since the war and its international contributions based on the idea of proactive contribution to peace.

About bills that the government plans to submit to the Diet to allow limited exercise of the right of collective self-defence, Abe said the government "will continue the establishment of legal arrangements for security that will enable seamless responses to any circumstances."

Abe also called for a national debate over amending the Constitution.

Abe said the government will take steps to promote women's active participation in society and support employment of the elderly and young people. As part of measures to deal with poverty among children, he said the government also plans to eventually make preschool education free of charge and expand interest-free student loans.

Key points of Abe's policy speech

- Japan will never yield to terrorism and will firmly fulfil its share of responsibility in the international com-munity, through such measures as providing humanitarian assistance.

- The government will push ahead with the greatest reforms since the end of World War II, such as economic revitalisation, social security reforms and regional vitalization.

- The government will implement growth strategies including the first reforms of agricultural cooperatives in 60 years and bold regulatory reforms.

- A probable conclusion is finally emerging in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact negotiations. The government will seek to conclude talks at an early date.

- On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Japan affirms its commitment to contributing to peace and stability in the world.

- The government will help deepen a national debate regarding amendments of the Constitution.

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