A day after the launch of his new Cabinet, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori stressed his determination Wednesday to create a “reborn Japan” by improving the economy and promoting the development of information technology.
In his first formal news conference since being re-elected prime minister, Mori said he is prioritizing full-scale economic recovery and carrying out economic structural reforms — including changes that would make Japan more compatible with information technology.
He also hinted that the government will continue to put priority on stimulus spending instead of working toward fiscal reconsolidation.
Mori suggested that 500 billion yen in reserve funds already earmarked for fiscal 2000 will be allocated in such a way as to benefit the public.
He added that in an effort to create a new Japan, he would establish a special spending bracket for the fiscal 2001 budget through which government outlays would be directly targeted for such areas as IT.
He also said the government will set up, prior to the July 21-23 Group of Eight summit in Okinawa, a special task force aimed at turning Japan into an advanced-technology society.
The task force will study information technology “from a comprehensive viewpoint, encompassing reforms of the administrative system and the promotion of an electronic government. It will implement such plans swiftly according to specific time limits,” the prime minister said.
Another goal he spoke of is to transform Japan into a nation that is trusted by the world. In this sense, his administration’s biggest task for the time being is to make the upcoming Group of Eight meetings a success.
On the diplomatic front, the prime minister said he will aim to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea during the current Cabinet’s term.
Many political observers say that even if Mori’s grip on power is secure, he will reshuffle his Cabinet again in December as the number of government ministries and agencies will change in line with a regrouping scheduled to take effect January.
Mori also said he hopes to build a strategic and economic partnership with Russia. Japan has yet to sign a peace treaty with Moscow due to a standoff regarding the sovereignty of a group of islands off Hokkaido.
On other issues, the prime minister maintained that the basic ideals of the Constitution should be maintained in the future but added that he does not consider the Constitution an untouchable code. There must be mature and cautious consideration before discussing any possible amendments to the supreme law, he said.
Mori also expressed a desire to review the basic foundation of the nation’s education system, which he has often claimed does not teach morals.
He said the nation should discuss reforming the current school system, suggesting that academic years at Japanese universities and colleges, which usually begin in April, should start in September.
The reform would help students who study abroad and experience difficulties when they return to Japanese schools, he said, citing the fact that the number of Japanese students who study abroad is growing.
Mori also suggested examining the merger of the junior high and high school education systems into a single six-year secondary education system.
Review first: Kamei
Shizuka Kamei, the policy affairs chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Wednesday that overall economic conditions need to be considered before deciding on a supplementary budget for the current fiscal year.
Kamei added that the decision should be made by the end of August.
Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa has said the government should wait until September, when gross domestic product figures for the April-June quarter are announced, before making a decision.
But Kamei also told reporters that the government should consider the economic condition from various perspectives instead of putting too much emphasis on GDP, since it only shows the past condition of the economy.
Kamei also stressed the need for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. to cut its interconnection fees to further promote information and technology.
“NTT needs to carry out a second reform,” in the wake of its first reform in 1985 when the firm was privatized, said Kamei, who was reappointed to his post. “It is necessary to remove restrictions that do not meet the demands of the times.”
But he did not specify when the NTT Law should be revised or how much NTT’s connection fees should be cut.
The amount of the reduction depends on how NTT manages its business and how much of a cut the firm is able to tolerate, he said.
LDP of tomorrow
About a dozen relatively new Liberal Democratic Party members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday formed a new parliamentary group aimed at reshaping the ruling LDP.
The “young” politicians said they are unhappy with the LDP’s leadership, which approved Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori for a second term in office despite the huge setback the party suffered in the June 25 general election.
The new group is called Jiminto-no Asuotsukuru kai (Group to Create the LDP of Tomorrow).
Nobuaki Ishihara and other members of the group held a meeting Wednesday and decided that they will focus on changing the structure and nature of the LDP rather than getting LDP leaders to overhaul the party.
Makiko Tanaka, Katsuei Hirasawa and independent Yoko Kamikawa are also among the members, some of whom are rookie politicians or Lower House members serving only their second or third terms.
The young lawmakers lashed out at the LDP leadership, saying Mori should resign and that the LDP will not survive if it sticks to its present policies.