Friday, May 23, 2014

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

-- Our country is facing great changes of the times, such as decreasing population, intensifying competition on global scale, deteriorating education in schools and families, and changes in the national security environment surrounding Japan.

-- Under the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito Party, we will rally together as the "Policy Implementation Cabinet," and steadily advance policies with solid foundations on the ground. We will articulate our policies with confidence, and deepen constructive debates with the opposition parties, and do our best in sincerely coming up with answers to each and every question, so that the people can live without anxiety into the future.

-- Starting with myself, cabinet ministers, senior vice ministers, and parliamentary vice ministers -- a total of 70 top government officials -- will divide up and each visit various local communities throughout the country, and listen to the voices on the ground face to face with the elderly people, young people, and people working for small and medium enterprises, and reflect their views in policies which are attentive to various circumstances.

-- It is essential to have a long-term system design to make the public pension a foundation of national daily life, a trustworthy system without anxiety for the people. This is the responsibility of politics. It is extremely important that discussions will be resumed in the Diet that transcend the positions of the ruling and opposition parties, and transparent and constructive consultations will be conducted.

-- I will make every effort to sincerely respond to the earnest voices of the people in the regions raising concerns over disparities and their future prospects, and make the dividends of reforms to be felt by the regions.

-- We will strive for local tax and financial reforms, including further transfer of power to local governments and correction of tax revenue disparities among regions.

-- We will integrate the implementation systems established under the Cabinet, including the one for regional revitalization. We will also provide assistance to regions willing to work on revitalization, in a concentrated and effective manner that adapts to the actual situations prevailing in the respective regions, by fully mobilizing measures such as the Program for Helping Striving Regions to Help Themselves

-- We will support improving vocational skills, and raise the minimum wage, in order to shore up the living standards of people working in the regions.

-- We will work to support the revitalization of the regions as a whole, by improving the productivities of small and medium enterprises which prop up the regional economy, and newly establishing a Regional Vitality Restoration Organization.

-- We will focus our efforts on policies that build for the future, including assistance to hard-working people based on the "agricultural policies on the offensive." Firmly acknowledging the anxieties held by senior and small-scale farming households, we will provide attentive assistance to them.

-- Careful attention will be paid to shoring up academic abilities by increasing classroom hours, enhancing textbooks and effectively utilizing the nationwide academic test. Efforts will also be focused on trial experiences and on moral education.

-- We will establish a well-modulated salary structure for teachers and strive to smoothly implement a renewal system for teaching licenses. Through measures such as reducing their administrative burdens, we will increase the amount of time that teachers engage fully in face-to-face interaction with students.

-- We will establish a system of emergency hub hospitals and networks responsible for emergency medical care in each of the regions, so that necessary emergency medical services can be received even during the night. We will make full efforts with a view to resolving the shortage of doctors in local regions through measures such as promptly dispatching "doctors without prefectural borders," and establishing a framework for working in remote areas at the medical departments of universities in local regions.

-- We will advance efforts to make Japan the most disaster-resistant nation in the world. We will work to make schools and other public facilities as well as houses more resistant to earthquakes, and create systems that can respond without fail if the need arises -- systems to provide information to the elderly, confirm people's safety and conduct rescue operations. Every effort will be made to ensure that nuclear power plants respond properly when earthquakes occur, while at the same time ensuring full disclosure of information in order to reassure the residents in the surrounding areas.

-- In order to create an environment where people can have children and raise them with a sense of security, we will expand diverse and attentive day care services and advance a review of the ways in which people work so that they can strike a balance between work and family life.

-- We will realize sustainable growth, making the utmost use of the strengths Japan has thus far developed, such as science and technology. By supporting new innovations that open up the next era, as well as by making the economy more open to the outside world through promoting the liberalization of Japan's aviation industry, as well as in tourism, finance and other sectors, we will bring into Japan the growth and vitality of countries in Asia and elsewhere in the world.

--We will resolutely carry out administrative and financial reforms aimed at "zero waste." We will formulate a well-modulated budget, and firmly proceed on the path of integrated reform of expenditures and revenues, toward the goal of achieving a surplus in the primary balance of the central and local governments combined

-- We will thoroughly eradicate the bad disposition of civil servants that have come to light, and create a new mold of civil servants who will shoulder the administration of the country in the 21st century.

-- I will continue to carry forward "Proactive Diplomacy."

-- I do not believe anyone has forgotten the shocks of the North Korean missile launches and its announcement of a nuclear test. The security environment surrounding Japan continues to be harsh. Japan's national security system needs to be restructured, by strengthening the headquarters functions of the Prime Minister's Office and the intelligence capabilities of the Government. We will steadily implement the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, while listening closely to the earnest voices of local communities including Okinawa, and exerting our best efforts to promote the development of these communities.

-- In order to resolve North Korea's abduction, nuclear and missile issues, we will further strengthen our solidarity with the international community. We will make every effort with an iron will, until the return of all the abductees will be achieved.

-- Our environmental technologies make our country proud in the world. We will achieve compatibility between environment and economy in a way characteristic of Japan, which regards the environment not as a constraint on but rather as a boost for economic growth, through such means as the promotion of widespread use of energy conservation technologies overseas.

-- On the Constitution, which delineates the shape and form of the country, the enactment of the National Referendum Law has created a conducive environment for deepening discussions on revision. I hope that discussions to meet the expectations of the people will continue to be conducted.

-- I will continue to listen to the opinions of the people attentively and explain my policies fully, and press forward in conducting the affairs of the state.

-- The statecraft I aspire for is one that, while adapting to severe changes in the environment surrounding our country, safeguards and nurtures the values that Japan possesses intrinsically, which we can still find in our daily lives such as a sense of self-discipline, compassion and warmth for others; statecraft that enables each and every person to feel true richness and satisfaction in their daily lives; namely, statecraft that advances the creation of a beautiful country. With a vision of how Japan should be in 50 years, and in 100 years, and never losing sight of our origins, I solemnly swear that I will give all my body and soul to fulfill the responsibilities of the Prime Minister.

In response to all of which my colleague of the time shouted, "And We Will All Go to Heaven!"

Abe Shinzo made the above promises to the Diet and the nation on 10 September 2007. Two days later he held a press conference, announcing his intent to resign as prime minister -- the reason I have presented that final section in blue.

As for the section in red , I think the reason for drawing attention to those promises needs no clarification.

In June the Abe Cabinet Version 2.0 will be making a third attempt at presenting a cogent and inspiring vision for the so-called Third Arrow structural reforms. From what we have been hearing from the Industrial Competitiveness Council (pictured above), its subcommittees and similar advisory bodies, the prime minister is not listening to the likes of Gerald Curtis and others who have advised him to choose four or five big but not unreasonable goals to achieve by year's end. Instead what is leaking out from the advisors and the ministers is a prodigious wish list, daunting in length, scope and difficulty.

I am not entirely unsympathetic to the tactic of listing as many agenda items as possible all at once. It makes it easier to claim victory later on. Make your list long enough and you are sure to achieve at least some of the goals by the end of the year. Maybe a whole bunch of them, given the ruling coalition's explicit ability to get things done, when it wishes to throw its weight around.

However, I cannot shake a sense that unless Abe and Company trim down the list of things "we will do" then more than a few listeners may respond in June as my colleague did seven years ago. Make your list of promises too long -- and the threads tying the package together too tenuous -- and your list of promises will be seen not as ambitious but as merely insulting to the intelligence.

For the original Abe Shinzo Diet Policy Speech of 10 September 2007, go to:

For a sweet, rough and soft version of “Knockin' On Heaven's Door” by the Grateful Dead, go to:

Image courtesy: Prime Minister's Residence


ArmchairAsia said...

Well, I think the "new" long to-do list is in keeping with the Abe handlers' penchant to keep Abe looking busy.

He is simply a whirlwind of activity, always on the move. Very little brooding going on in Tokyo--no time to move into the PM's manse--need to catch the next plane to somewhere, anywhere.

It is all a PR tactic to give an impression he is doing something and is healthy and vibrant (or at least his body double is...).

D said...

Well, I don't know much about that stuff anymore, but I do know that anyone who links to a version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door other than Bob "Mumbles" Dylan's is a man of some taste.

ken elwood said...

Shisaku, first time to comment, but long time reader. Thanks for your blogging. Informative while entertaining.

What exactly is "Abenomics"? I think it's just the culmination of what every other prime minister has been trying to do since as far back as I can remember.

Firstly, I think they're looting the pension funds and forcing people to spend their futon money ahead of the huge sales tax increase(s), and spend that futon money to a huge fraction of small to medium size business in Japan that is in debt to various money lending institutions, who get their money initially from none other than the BOJ!

So domestically Japan keeps debt and tax serfdom bearable by extracting the maximum possible in debt payments and taxes without sparking a gramps revolution, the status quo stays financed, and the ugly continues on like a broken record until the edge of the cliff, and until then everyone other than the old people are either just trying to get by or distracted by their i-phone.

But now I'm thinking it's just going to muddle along like it always has, of course punctuated by some local catastrophes. I think the big mistake of Japan doomers (this includes me to an extent) was assuming that failures around the world would have positive feedback like a house of cards here. Now I’m thinking the system here, although personally undesirable, is resilient in its own way.

The Rational Pessimist wrote a good one called The Absurdity of ‘Abenomics’ and the PM’s ‘Three Bendy Arrows' in a 4 part series, and that link goes to part 4. The main idea I took from it is that at the end of the day Japan destroys itself to save itself. It literally leeches off itself where and when it can and only the strong survive! It's interesting to think about how Japanese society's emphasis on shame plays into this.

TRP postulates that hedge fundians here stand the best chance, with the wage laborers coming in a distant second with a lower standard of living but not a desperate one.

ken elwood
adams guild™ - Japan