The government will do its utmost to pull the nation’s economy out of its current doldrums and achieve 0.5 percent real-term growth in fiscal 1999, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi repledged Tuesday.

“I am confident that the nation’s economic growth rate will achieve the 0.5 percent target in real terms in fiscal 1999,” Obuchi said in a policy speech delivered at the opening of the 145th Diet session. “I will do my best to make 1999 the first year toward recovery.”

Warning that excessive pessimism over the economy will deprive the nation of its vitality, Obuchi said, “It is time for us to set ourselves free from pessimism. … What we need at the moment is constructive optimism with firm determination.”

Citing the importance of bilateral security ties, Obuchi also encouraged the Diet to pass legislation necessary to implement the updated Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines as soon as possible.

The government will also work to expand the scope of Self-Defense Forces’ participation in United Nations-led peacekeeping operations by lifting a freeze limiting its role mainly to the provision of logistic support, he said.

The government will introduce 122 bills during the 150-day ordinary Diet session, including 38 related to the fiscal 1999 budget. The Obuchi administration’s priority will be to pass the fiscal 1999 budget quickly, and then it hopes to move on to bills regarding the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines.

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