Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi greeted the New Year with a pledge to keep striving for full-scale economic recovery and to create a society in which all generations can live in harmony. “In 2000, I want to push ahead with the ‘economic renaissance’ policy for real economic recovery,” Obuchi said during a news conference marking New Year’s Eve. He said he will work to propel the economy to a real 0.5 percent growth rate for the current fiscal year and aim at a real 1 percent growth rate for fiscal 2000. To that end, Obuchi indicated he will continue to put priority on stimulus efforts even at the expense of deteriorating fiscal health. As his government is spending heavily to keep the economy afloat, the combined gross debt of the central and local governments is estimated to expand to 647 trillion yen with the fiscal 2000 budget, exceeding the size of the nation’s gross domestic product by 30 percent. “Of course these debts must be reduced as early as possible,” Obuchi said, but noted that fiscal reform will be pursued only after an economic recovery is ensured. Stating his vision of the future of Japan, Obuchi said he wants to create a society where all people — free of generation and gender barriers — can pursue happiness while making use of their abilities. On the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa next July, the first Japan will host outside of Tokyo, Obuchi expressed hope that the participants will have substantial discussions regarding the world’s future. Speaking about the key task facing the governing coalition — the Liberal Democratic Party, Liberal Party and New Komeito — at the start of the next ordinary Diet session, Obuchi said he hopes to get a bill passed as promised to cut the number of Lower House seats and start deliberating the fiscal 2000 budget as early as possible. The LDP promised the Liberal Party at the end of the last extraordinary Diet session that the coalition will pass the bill — one of the triumvirate’s agreements — at the beginning of the regular session that will convene in the second half of January. Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa said his party will leave the coalition if the promise is broken again. “Once the ordinary session is convened, I truly hope that the Diet members will take up the bill at the beginning of the session,” the prime minister said. “I believe the Democratic Party of Japan will not be completely opposed to the idea of cutting the number of lower chamber seats from the proportional representation segment.” As a landmark project, the Diet will start its first review of the Constitution, which was drawn up in 1946, by setting up special panels in both chambers in the ordinary session. Although the government does not intend to amend the Constitution now, Obuchi said it will be meaningful to start debate over the charter, which has thus far been regarded as untouchable. On whether the LDP, which he heads, and the Liberal Party will merge, Obuchi said both he and Ozawa feel a merger is possible because members of the two parties share basic policy views. Obuchi has said, however, that such a move would not be easy in light of the problems that must be dealt with under the current single-seat constituency and proportional representation system. “This is a plan that will not be realized unless there is understanding by more than half of the members of each party,” he said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.