01/27/2011 Representative questioning (I)

Good afternoon. I am Yasuo Tanaka.

I’d like to begin my representative questioning by noting that the People’s New Party and New Party Nippon have had serious discussion with the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on many occasions, in the process of compiling a fiscal 2013 budget proposal. As a result, a record amount of budget was allocated to promotion of culture and a budget allocated to promote and develop Okinawa exceeded the previous year budget, for the first time in 10 years.

A revolutionary approach to demonstrate what shall constitute ‘New Public Service’ will materialize in a tangible form at the STATE level. One such example will be a project to build ‘Roads with a Smell of a Tree.’ The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry will promote wooden guardrails instead of those made of steel.

Wooden guardrails, originally introduced in Shinshu, have the strength of steel. All work involved in the project will be completed by local businesses, including tree thinning, producing and installing wooden guardrails. The number of jobs to be created will be 5 times greater, per square meter, than when steel guardrails are installed.

Another example will be a project to reinforce levees with steel sheet piles. The River Bureau at the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry will pay for the research. In Japan, levees are made of soil and sand. Water seeps into levees through concrete walls, causing liquefaction. In the US and South Korea, the entire structure of levees, from shoulders to the foundation, is reinforced with two steel sheet piles, so that they won’t break, even when the river crests and flooding occurs.

Unlike the time and money-consuming dam construction, reinforcing levees with steel sheet piles is a feasible and effective flood control measure, which can be implemented immediately as a community-based public works project. Breaking away from the principle of building levees with earth, Japan’s river management will take a step forward towards a Copernican Revolution.

Praising Prime Minister Naoto Kan for making the wise decision, I’d like now to present proposals and questions.

Serving as governor, I refurbished vacant stores in shopping districts and unoccupied private homes in villages and opened daycare centers for the elderly and children including babies under the age of one. The idea was to build ‘in-home nursery and nursing home’ so that the elderly people and children can spend time together ‘under the same roof.’ It’s a brand-new cross-generational welfare concept, in which the young and old can be inspirations to one another. Nagano created 300 such facilities on its own.

Yet, so far, the concept has taken root only in 3 prefectures—Nagano, Toyama and Saga. Across the nation, 26 thousand children are waiting to get into nurseries and 20 billion yen have been allocated to deal with the problem. Why not the government takes the initiative in encouraging municipalities to establish such facilities in their communities? I believe the government will have broad public support in that effort. What would you think?

Every year, people die, leaving behind their stashed-away savings in their bank accounts. Those accounts usually turn dormant after their deaths and the savings become windfall profits for financial institutions. The amount can reach 100 billion yen every year.

Last October, during my diet questioning, I said the law should be revised so those savings in dormant accounts at financial institutions can be transferred to the state, so Japan can follow the example of Britain which is using the money to finance new public measures and policies. Have you studied the possibility? Would you please give us your view in concrete terms?

Water is the origin and the essence of life. Protecting and securing water resources is the ultimate national security. And yet, Japan has no law regulating groundwater as public property, allowing foreign capital to buy up forests in reservoir areas in droves.

There is a cross-party group of lawmakers trying to reform the water system. It’s led by Mr. Hidenao Nakagawa of the Liberal Democratic Party and I also serve as a co-leader. The group is sponsoring the legislation of the basic law for water circulation and is working towards the early enactment. We have already drawn up a detailed draft. The DPJ league of lawmakers is also promoting water policies. It’s chaired by Mr. Tatsuo Kawabata and is also advocating the legislation of the basic law for water circulation during the current diet session, in which ‘Deliberative Democracy’ is being promoted. Mr. Kan is also promoting the philosophy of ‘New Public,’ and so, I challenge you to make a decision.

Last December, Yomiuri Shinbun wrote in an editorial titled, ‘Shelving postal bills will inconvenience public,’ that ‘The Diet should respond to calls from the public who seek progress in reform effort to make post offices more convenient.’ Mr. Kan, you said in your policy speech that ‘the public is seeking a decision without postponement.’ Please clarify your position towards enacting the postal reform law.

Every last but not least, no country that ever existed has succeeded in boosting its economy by raising taxes. Increasing not taxes but revenues is a mission for any statesman.

The public isn’t forgetting DPJ pledge in its election manifesto against raising the consumption tax at least for 4 years. The DPJ pledged to deliver the promise by entirely reviewing the total budget of 207 trillion yen including the special account to finance new policies by drastically reducing wasteful spending.

Mr. Kan pledged to reform social security to make it sustainable for the next 30 years and more, as he spoke at a meeting held by the government and the DPJ panel working on reforming social security. But the reality is, in 30 years time, if not, in 20 years time, Japan’s population will drop by 17 million to 110 million. The working population will drop from 65 million to 54 million. And yet, in one in four prefectures, the minimum wage is lower than the amount of benefits paid to people on welfare. That is absurd.

I should also note that Japan opened up to the rest of the world as a trading nation long time ago. TPP is certain to ‘destroy’ our country. Rather, we should make up for our shortcomings by concluding FTA or EPT instead, and ‘change’ our country for the better.

In the up-coming budget committee, I also look forward to engaging in ‘Creative Conflict,’ so we can work together to find the pass in the impasse.

I will again be proposing ideas including the introduction of Basic Income for Japanese of all ages.

With this final note, I’d like to conclude my representative questioning on behalf of the ruling parliamentary group of the People’s New Party and New Party Nippon. Thank you.