008 Shizno Abe
I would like to respond to Representative Yoshimi Watanabe.
You asked about the increase in the consumption tax rate.
The increase in the consumption tax rate under the current comprehensive reform is intended to ensure the sustainability and security of the growing social security system and to maintain the confidence of the nation.
Although the law stipulates that the consumption tax rate will be raised in April next year, we believe that it is important to be able to secure tax revenue in line with the objectives of the comprehensive reform, rather than mechanically raising the tax rate at any cost.
For example, it would be meaningless to raise the consumption tax rate in the face of continued strong deflation if, on the contrary, revenues would decrease.
This fall, in accordance with Article 18 of the Supplementary Provisions, we will check various economic indicators, including nominal and real economic growth rates, and make a judgment based on comprehensive consideration of economic conditions and other factors.
In any case, with the Three Arrows, we will do our utmost to overcome the prolonged deflation and revive the Japanese economy.
You asked about the appointment of the next Bank of Japan Governor and Deputy Governors, based on the candidates' views on monetary and economic policies.
I have been selecting the next Governor and Deputy Governors of the Bank of Japan, regardless of their parent organizations, with a view to finding a candidate who understands my views on monetary policy with a view to overcoming deflation, who will tackle this issue with firm determination and ability, and who will have the ability to communicate to the international community.
In doing so, I personally exchanged opinions with the three candidates, Mr. Kuroda, Mr. Iwata and Mr. Nakaso, regarding my views on monetary and economic policies, and recently presented them to the Diet as the most suitable candidates.
I hope that the Bank of Japan will take responsibility for implementing bold monetary easing under the leadership of Mr. Kuroda, Mr. Iwata and Mr. Nakaso with the consent of the Diet.
I hope that Mr. Watanabe will agree with me.
You asked about the foreign exchange reserves held by the TFEMC.
The foreign exchange reserves held by the TFEMC are the result of foreign exchange interventions and are not held for the preservation of vested interests as you pointed out.
You asked about the revision of the Bank of Japan Act.
We are always considering the revision of the Bank of Japan Act as an option for the future, but first of all, it is important to achieve the price stability target of 2 percent as soon as possible, and we expect the Bank of Japan to take responsibility for conducting bold monetary easing.
In addition, the Joint Statement states that the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy will review monetary policy and other issues, which is a mechanism to ensure the effectiveness of the Joint Statement by strengthening the Bank’s accountability.
You asked about where the responsibility for achieving the price stability target lies.
The Joint Statement clearly stipulates that the Bank will set the price stability target at 2 percent and aim to achieve it as soon as possible, and we recognize that the Bank will be responsible for achieving the price stability target.
In addition, since it is desirable for price inflation to be achieved in a stable manner accompanied by growth in the real economy, the Government of Japan will endeavor to conduct flexible macroeconomic policy management and implement initiatives to strengthen growth potential and competitiveness.
You asked about descent from heaven.
The problem with the re-employment of national public servants is inappropriate behavior such as talking to former public servants and forcing re-employment on them based on budget and authority.
Under the supervision of the Committee for Monitoring Reemployment, which was established last year, we will strictly regulate such inappropriate acts, thereby eradicating the practice of descent from heaven and dispelling the public’s doubts about reemployment.
You asked about the impact of the expansion of public works projects.
With regard to public works projects in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2013, while keeping in touch with local governments, we have appropriated expenses that are truly necessary and respond to the changing times and needs, such as projects to protect people’s lives by taking measures to address aging infrastructure and earthquake resistance, and projects to promote growth and regional revitalization.
In addition, as for the poor bidding conditions and shortage of materials and manpower in the disaster-stricken areas as you pointed out, we will respond flexibly and promptly by increasing the size of orders, establishing new plants for ready-mixed concrete for public works, and relaxing the standards for the assignment of engineers.
On top of that, in cooperation with local governments, we will strive to quickly implement the public works projects included in the budget plan for fiscal year 2013, so that the economic ripple effect will be realized as soon as possible as an economic measure.
You asked about the so-called public-private funds.
In order to maximize the potential of Japan’s abundant private-sector funds, diverse human resources, and superior technological capabilities, and to realize wealth creation through growth, the supply of risk money to the market and the promotion of private-sector investments and loans that are triggered by the supply of risk money are urgent issues.
In each measure, the private sector will take the lead in carefully examining investment projects under an adequate screening system and risk management system, and will strive to ensure profitability.
With regard to the re-employment of national public servants, we will strictly enforce the re-employment regulations based on the National Public Service Act, under the supervision of the Re-employment Monitoring Committee, in order to eradicate amakudari.
You asked about the regulatory reform of electric power.
With regard to the separation of power transmission and distribution as you pointed out, it is important to ensure the neutrality of the distribution and power sector in practice. Also, with regard to the liberalization of retailing, as you pointed out, it is important to ensure that consumers have substantial choices.
With these points in mind, and with stable supply as a major premise, we will steadily promote regulatory reform in the electric power sector.
You asked about agricultural reform.
Agriculture is an important industry that supplies food to the people and supports the local economy, and also plays a multifaceted role in protecting our beautiful hometown and national land.
In this regard, the Agricultural Land Law was amended in 2009 to completely liberalize the entry of joint-stock companies into agriculture, as long as they use the leasing method, and we are currently promoting entry using the leasing method.
In addition, the Agricultural Cooperative Law allows agricultural cooperatives to voluntarily determine the scope of their business according to the choice of their members, and the Anti-Monopoly Law does not exempt agricultural cooperatives from the application of unfair trade practices.
In the future, we will strive to develop aggressive agriculture so that agriculture can become an attractive industry for many young people.
You asked about the TPP and other economic partnerships.
With regard to the TPP, the Government of Japan will seek the best way forward that is in the national interest, based on the recognition I have gained from the recent summit meeting.
I will make the final decision on whether or not to participate in the negotiations, based on discussions within my party and with the United States.
In addition, we will strategically promote economic partnerships with the Asia-Pacific region, East Asia, Europe, and other regions, including the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia, as you pointed out.
You asked about the reform of the national public service system.
I recognize that the importance of reforming the national public service system has not changed at all from the time when the Basic Law for Reforming the National Public Service System was enacted to the present.
In addition to the results of the past reforms, the way of administration and the civil service system needs to be reformed to capture the changes in the era of great international competition.
Based on the fact that there have been various discussions on the bills submitted based on the Basic Law, we will promote necessary reforms after reviewing the past history.
You asked about the establishment of the Revenue Agency.
In the Tax Reform Act enacted last year, based on the three-party agreement among the Liberal Democratic Party, the New Komeito Party, and the Democratic Party of Japan, the Government of Japan will study the effectiveness of and implement the Revenue Agency and other measures to strengthen the system for collecting pension insurance premiums from a broad perspective.
Based on the provisions of this law, the government will study from a broad perspective how to strengthen the system for collecting pension insurance premiums. You asked about the use of the Internet in elections.
The use of the Internet in elections is an extremely important issue that relates to the basic rules of elections, such as how election campaigns should be conducted, and each party and each faction has been actively discussing the issue to gather opinions.
At this stage, there are still a variety of opinions, and I believe it is important to deepen the discussion and reach a conclusion.
As for me, I will work to lift the ban on elections as soon as possible, while giving due consideration to fairness.
You asked about nuclear energy policy and electricity deregulation.
With regard to energy policy, including nuclear power, the first and foremost premise is to take all possible measures to stabilize energy supply and demand so that people’s lives and economic activities will not be disturbed under any circumstances.
In this regard, we will review the previous administration’s policy of enabling zero operation of nuclear power plants in the 1930s from a zero-based perspective, and build a responsible energy policy that includes the perspectives of stable energy supply and energy cost reduction.
At that time, we will launch a fundamental reform of the electric power system and consider reducing our dependence on nuclear power as much as possible.
You asked about the deregulation of electric power.
With regard to the deregulation of electric power, we will continue to study the ideal structure of electric power supply and the process of total deregulation of retail sales, etc., and will work on the specifics while maintaining the basic premise of stable supply.
We are making preparations so that we can submit related bills in this Diet session.
You asked about a bill for the purchase and lease of land.
With regard to the damages caused by the nuclear accident, we believe that it is appropriate for the government not to directly purchase or lease the land and buildings of the victims and compensate them, but to make TEPCO responsible for compensation in accordance with the Nuclear Damage Compensation Law.
The government will follow up on the progress of TEPCO under the framework of the Nuclear Damage Liability Support Corporation Law and provide firm support so that TEPCO will steadily work on the compensation.
You asked about the final disposal site for designated waste.
With regard to the selection of candidate sites for the final disposal of designated waste, we have decided to revise our efforts under the previous administration where necessary, and to drastically revise the selection process with an emphasis on exchanging opinions with local governments.
From now on, we will work to make steady progress by following the procedures.
We believe that it is appropriate to dispose of the designated waste generated in each prefecture on a prefectural basis, as it is a matter for each region.
You asked about publicizing the purpose of the amendment to Article 766 of the Civil Code.
Article 766 of the Civil Code was amended in light of the fact that it is important from the perspective of the interests of the child to agree on visitation and the sharing of childcare expenses at the time of divorce, and we will continue to make the purpose of the amendment widely known to the general public.
As for the remaining questions, I will let the relevant Minister answer them. (Applause)
The Minister of State, Mr. Taro Aso, is on the stage.