LONDON – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has clarified his intention to promote nuclear power despite the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, pledging to make efforts to enhance safety at atomic energy facilities.
“The tragedy that hit Fukushima has yet to end. I can’t stand still when I think of the difficulties the victims have been facing,” Abe said Wednesday during a speech in London. “But we should change the greatest crisis (postwar Japan has faced) into an opportunity to reform the energy market.”
“We will enhance the safety of nuclear power plants and continue to contribute to nuclear nonproliferation. Japan, which has led the world in (this field), will not choose a way to retreat” in the face of the March 2011 meltdowns, said Abe, who stopped by the City of London financial district after attending the Group of Eight summit in Northern Island.
Abe also promised to drastically alter taxation to help rebuild businesses and increase private sector investment, aiming to achieve his twin goals of eradicating the country’s chronic deflation and restoring its fiscal health.
“We will make big changes to our tax system this autumn. By making use of tax incentives, we will encourage business restructuring,” Abe announced. “To provide incentives for companies to take the risk of carrying out capital spending, we will also implement a tax cut for investment.”
Abe’s remarks come as he is just beginning to struggle to preserve the optimism that has surrounded his economic policies, dubbed “Abenomics,” in the run-up to next month’s House of Councilors election. The chamber is currently dominated by the opposition camp.
A lack of specific tax measures for the corporate sector in the economic growth strategy approved last week by the Cabinet triggered disappointment and a sell-off in Tokyo stocks, forcing Abe to pledge to devise a second version later this year.
Abe, Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years, said his administration will designate the next three years as an “intensive reform period,” indicating his determination to stick around long enough to oversee the implementation of his rightist policy platform.
To attain the reforms necessary to shore up the stagnant economy, “I want to lead the Liberal Democratic Party to victory” in the Upper House poll, Abe, who also heads the ruling party, said.
The growth strategy is the last of the “three arrows” of “Abenomics,” along with large-scale public works and aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan. The fist two steps had driven up stocks amid expectations that the weaker yen would boost exports, a key driver of growth.
In his speech in London, Abe added that his government will establish special economic zones in which deregulation will be encouraged, with an eye to bolstering investment and attracting overseas businesses and human resources to Japan.
“What is necessary for the nation’s revitalization is a strong catalyst that will renovate old Japan and further strengthen new Japan. I hope foreign direct investment will become (the catalyst),” he said.
The government said in Abe’s growth strategy that it will try to augment the level of business investment by 10 percent in total over the next three years to raise it to around ¥70 trillion, equivalent to the amount seen before the 2008 global financial meltdown. It also aims to double direct investment from foreign firms to ¥35 trillion by 2020.