"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

[Date] March 26, 2010
[Source] Prime Minister of JAPAN and His Cabinet
[Full text]

Opening Remarks by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

As you are aware, the budget for fiscal 2010 has been enacted. Given the harsh economic circumstances which we still face, I believe that the passage of this budget within the present fiscal year was a most welcome achievement.

In formulating [the government's draft of] this budget, I feel that we were able to present the Japanese people with an open budget [formulation process] through the use of such methods as the review of government programmes (jigyou shiwake).

As a result, I believe we have produced a budget which clearly reflects our set of priorities. Although I have no intention of saying that all public works are wasteful, we reduced, under the principle of "not spending on concrete, but on people" public works spending by 18 per cent, while making considerable increases in spending for people, of 8 per cent and 10 per cent for education and for social security, respectively. I feel this was possible precisely because we are a new government.

Yet it will still take some time before the people can actually feel the impact of this new budget. It is my fervent hope, however, that families and individuals will sense this impact as soon as possible through such measures as the child allowance or free tuition at public senior high schools, and I intend to do all that is possible to bring this about.

While there has been some improvement in economic conditions, such as in the unemployment rate which has fallen to 4.9 per cent from the 5.4 per cent when I took office, we are still being harshly criticised for instance on persistent deflation and other severe conditions. It goes without saying that we will do our utmost to overcome deflation.

We have also been chided for other matters as well--for the public not being able to see sufficient leadership, despite the high expectations of the Hatoyama government, and for apparent disunity on a variety of issues, although we stated we would establish firm political leadership. Among these I am also very aware of the problems regarding "politics and money". We must lay down a course towards the resolution of these problems, too. And we must work so that the people will soon feel that this new government, the coalition government with the Democratic Party of Japan at the centre, is performing up to expectations. We have many issues to tackle, but I intend to take them on, considering that in a certain sense we are making a fresh start now.

Today I should like to outline three main policy tenets.

These consist of opening up the bureaucracy, opening up the nation and, as a result, opening up our future.

What does "opening up the bureaucracy" mean? Firstly, the Japanese people have strongly wanted our new government to eradicate the practice of amakudari (golden parachuting). This is, of course, something which I pledge to pursue even more stringently. But this is not all: I also want to improve the bureaucracy by injecting the vitality of the private sector into its leadership posts, and for this I will actively recruit private sector persons to fill these positions. The term "revolving door" is used to describe the situation where people move freely from the bureaucracy to the private sector and vice versa. I believe it is important to change Japan's bureaucracy - or indeed, the country's ways of living - so that this becomes possible.

Taking this one step further, what we need is a "new concept of public service". This means opening [to the private sector and private citizens] areas of work which used to be considered the preserve of the public sector. They will no longer be [solely] areas for the public sector. To the greatest extent possible, we must rely on people in the private sector to perform what tasks they can. And we must create a society where we can live by supporting each other [rather than relying mostly or totally on the government to provide public services]. In this connection, I believe we must consider the use of tax credits and other tax-system benefits and introduce them whatever the challenges may be. It is individual members of the public who pay taxes to the national and local governments. Wouldn't they prefer to contribute a portion of their tax payments to [private] organisations which would provide such public services, rather than to pay everything to the national or local authorities? I want to create a society in which people would feel this way much more strongly than they do now, and in which doing so is actually possible.

From today, I want to make press conferences more open to everyone.

The changes so far are insufficient. We have received a range of criticism. We will need to make press conferences even more open. For now, though, I ask people to recognise that we have taken a first step.

In a certain sense, although perhaps I should not say this in such blunt terms, it would be better if the customary burasagari method [of offering media access to limited numbers of reporters] were replaced by more frequent press conferences open to a much broader range of journalists.

Going still further, as a matter which will require some consultation with the Chief Cabinet Secretary, we will disclose information on the Cabinet Secretariat's so-called secret discretionary funds, or "compensation expenses". The source of these funds is taxes, so shouldn't we create a way to enable us to explain, at some [appropriate] time in the future, how these funds were used? This is another area where I hope to make a major difference between my government and previous ones.

Next, what does "opening up the nation" mean? There are two points I wish to make here.

Firstly, we will leave tasks, which have previously been carried out by the national government, up to the regions. This involves a major transfer to a country based on regional sovereignty. Japan's regions are now in a state of exhaustion. In order to enhance their vitality, we must undertake a fundamental change of society, one in which administrative authority which is now held by the central government is in principle entrusted to the regions. Towards this end, we will comprehensively review the various obligations (gimuzuke) and frameworks (wakuzuke) imposed on the regions [by the national government as a condition for budget execution], shift to a system of block grants and do away completely with subsidies provided by the national government to the regions that have strings attached.

Secondly, as I have stated for some years now, we will open Japan to the world, and Asia in particular. I will translate the East Asian community initiative into reality. I hope to take a more strategic approach to promoting free trade in the form of economic partnership and free trade agreements (EPAs/FTAs). In particular, we should resume negotiations on an EPA or FTA between Japan and the Republic of Korea. In terms of the investment environment, Japan is not an easy place [for foreigners] to invest. Obviously we must move as swiftly as possible to remove non-tariff barriers.

Furthermore, we must also open up as human beings. The Japanese still have a considerable part of their hearts closed off. I believe that in the time to come, Japan must develop into a society which can better accommodate the wishes of its people to look after and provide nursing care for their elderly family members. I believe that opening up the nation in this sense will prove vital for Japan's future.

By upholding the first two policy tenets, opening up the bureaucracy and opening up the nation, we will also be able to open up our future. We will establish a "new concept of public service" and regional sovereignty. Until now we have been trying to attain personal happiness which is measured with an economic yardstick. I feel we need to change our society into one where in the future each individual will use various standards, not just an economic one, to measure happiness and will experience it in a more personal way. By pursuing these tenets we can open Japan broadly towards the future.

There is one last thing I should like to mention. We have been debating in the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, particularly in the Budget Committees of both Houses. The debates were on such issues as the pension system, social security and public finances, which are very difficult issues that will have a large bearing on our future. It goes without saying that the government must first formulate clear proposals regarding such issues.

Yet at some point it will also become necessary to invite the cooperation of opposition party members in taking deliberations to a deeper level. These issues are too important for the ruling and opposition parties to be bickering over. I think we will have to one day build a relationship in which major issues are tackled in cooperation as national priorities.

Such a cooperative approach between the ruling and opposition parties is extremely important, I believe, in charting a course towards the resolution of problems regarding "politics and money", as I mentioned at the outset.

Let me repeat. Half a year has passed since we were entrusted with the reins of power. We have been beset by a number of problems owing to our lack of experience. But we must not turn back the clock. We must instead build a government which can turn the clock's hands forward with greater impetus towards the future. I end my opening message to the Japanese people by asking that they bear with us and provide patient guidance.

I am grateful to nation for their kind attention. Thank you very much.


Question: I would like to ask two questions regarding the relocation of Futenma Air Station, the government proposal for which is due to be prepared by the end of this month. There's not much time left, so my first question is whether you intend to prepare just one proposal or more than one proposal to allow some room for negotiation. Also, will you make the proposal or proposals public?

Secondly, you've been seeking to relocate the facility outside Okinawa so as to alleviate the burden borne by the people of the prefecture. Will it be relocated completely outside the prefecture, or if there is the option of relocating part of the facility elsewhere within Okinawa, how much of it do you think will need to be moved outside the prefecture in order to gain popular understanding in Okinawa and elsewhere?

Prime Minister: Let me answer this question regarding the relocation of Futenma Air Station.

My view is that, obviously, unless we ultimately prepare a single government proposal, negotiations are bound to fail. In the lead-up to negotiations, though, we have been discussing a number of options. It's a fact that a number of options have been considered. But in negotiating with the United States or with relevant parties in Japan - and of course there is the point whether the relocation site would be in Okinawa or not - I believe that we will need to have a single government proposal. We are now striving to formulate such a proposal essentially by the end of this month.

And as for whether or not we will make this proposal public, as you are no doubt aware, there have already been many newspaper reports [on what our proposal would consist of], but such reports are not necessarily accurate. If I were to respond to such reports and describe the content of our proposal, this would invite various responses, for example, on the perceived difficulty in negotiating that proposal with the United States.

Obviously, at a certain time, I will make our proposal known and entrust it to the judgement of the Japanese people, or should I say, seek their judgement on it. But until then, given that this is a negotiating process, there's a need to maintain confidentiality for a certain period of time. Without that, negotiations may not proceed smoothly. I hope people will understand this. Of course, as this is an issue on which we will need to gain the understanding of the entire Japanese people, we will make the proposal public at a certain stage.

If I may add, we have asked the people of Okinawa to bear a very heavy burden until now concerning the issue of US bases. I would hope that people living elsewhere in Japan take heed of this fact, and I would be highly grateful if they would try to learn about Okinawa's situation and show their understanding.

As for whether the relocation is to be completely or partially to another prefecture, I'm afraid I cannot comment on this point right now. But in light of the excessively heavy burden that the people of Okinawa have been asked to bear, I personally should like to consider a path to relocate the air station outside Okinawa.

Question: You touched upon the problem of "politics and money" as a factor behind the fall in approval ratings. There is criticism that you aren't doing anything politically to draw a line, even though the cause of the decline is quite clear.

There is fresh criticism of the lack of your leadership on policy matters as well, as seen in the confusion within the Cabinet over the future of postal reforms. In an effort to sweep away such criticism, are you not thinking of exercising strong leadership and making major personnel changes in the Cabinet and your party, including Secretary General [Ichiro] Ozawa? Or will you be heading into the campaign for the House of Councillors election with the current line-up?

Prime Minister: As I mentioned at the beginning, I am aware of the sense among many in this country that their expectations have been betrayed by the problem of "politics and money" and my lack of leadership.

At the same time, as you know, the fiscal 2010 budget has only just been passed. It is important that the current members of the Cabinet strive further to ensure that budget-related bills are also passed.

I naturally recognise the importance of personnel matters. I am aware of this as Prime Minister and President of the [Democratic] Party [of Japan]. But under present circumstances I feel it important to achieve cohesion within the Cabinet. And while I believe that the expression of various opinions within my party are in a sense democratic and thus should be welcomend, it is now important to reinforce party unity, and I intend to devote my efforts to this end. As such, I have no intention at this point of reshuffling the Cabinet or making personnel changes to the party leadership.

Question: Prime Minister, first of all, you earlier mentioned [the matter of making] press conferences [more open to everyone]. This press conference is in fact organised by the Cabinet Press Club. The reason for this, the fact that the organiser is the Press Club, is precisely to avoid having the Prime Minister make arbitrary decisions on whether to hold or not to hold press conferences.

Against that backdrop, since the inauguration of your government in September last year, the Cabinet Press Club has repeatedly requested that you hold press conferences more frequently, but you have not obliged. This press conference today is [only] the fourth or fifth. And while it is excellent that you said today you would be holding them more often, I would ask that you also be aware of this background.

My question is on your term of office. The Cabinet's approval ratings do not seem to stop falling, and you previously said that you would resign if you failed to win public support. It seems that the "politics and money" issues surrounding both you and [DPJ] Secretary General [Ichiro] Ozawa have a lot to do with these low ratings, and now centrifugal forces are perhaps pulling at your administration as seen with the issues of postal services reform and [the relocation of] Futenma [Air Station].

I ask whether or not you intend to seek a breakthrough in the situation by stepping down at this juncture.

Prime Minister: As for your point about the press conferences, I am sorry that I was unaware until today that all of you had made strong requests that I hold them more often. I reiterate my intention to hold them as often as possible in the future.

Next, concerning whether I stay or go, the Cabinet's approval rating has dropped substantially, as you are well aware, and I fully recognise that this must be taken seriously. However, at present I am certainly not in a situation where merely resigning would solve the problem. Quite the contrary, I consider the public to be telling me that there is a role for me to play following the historic change in government, and that I have to do more in this regard. With the budget enacted, I hope the public comes to really see the major changes the country will experience.

If a large number of people call for me to step down despite such changes, then I would of course have to reflect on my future. But at present, rather than being called to step down, I am instead being encouraged and exhorted to persevere as Prime Minister and execute my role properly, particularly in such difficult times as this. At present I am spurring myself on with these thoughts, so I am not considering resignation.

Question: Prime Minister, the correspondent from the Asahi urged you just now to hold press conferences a little more often, and I agree with that completely. However, I would like you to focus not on the number of times you hold them but rather on having a format that is more open to all correspondents who wish to participate and thus a little more open to the public. I would like to start with that request.

Having said that, today has proved truly memorable. I will refrain from presenting arguments about the Press Club, their right to organise press conferences, the issue of the "secret funds" in the Cabinet Secretariat and the Chief Cabinet Secretary, since you have already mentioned these matters.

I would however like to express my respect for you having kept your public pledge [to make your press conferences open to everyone, including journalists who are not members of the Press Club], which represents an important step for Japan's democracy, even though this has taken quite some time to fulfil.

On behalf of all the people who have been making efforts over the sixty-five years since the end of the War for the public's right to information, public information disclosure, and openness of press conferences, and on behalf of journalists around the world, I would like to express my gratitude. Thank you very much.

I do not have any questions, so I will return the floor.

Question: I would like to inquire a little more about "politics and money" issues. You mentioned earlier that you must set a clear course for resolving these issues. In saying this, what kind of course or action would really resolve these issues of "politics and money"?

In this connection you suggested having talks with the opposition parties. Regarding "politics and money", I believe questions are being asked how both as the DPJ and as the government you intend to draw the line, what remedial action you will take to cleanse yourselves besides introducing a bill in the Diet, including on the matter of [Chiyomi] Kobayashi, member of House of Representatives. What do you intend to do about the way forward to resolve "politics and money" issues, including these points I just raised?

Prime Minister: I consider there to be two major points regarding "politics and money" issues.

The first of these is that the person(s) concerned in each case should discharge more fully his or her duty to explain. In my own case, I have explained the situation at every opportunity, at sessions of the Budget Committees of the Diet and elsewhere without evasion or concealment. Secretary General Ozawa, too, has also held press conferences at which he responded to many questions.

The need to explain applies to other Diet members too. If a member is under suspicion from the public, yet considers that suspicion to be unfounded, I consider it most important that that person should explain his or her position on the matter in a forthright manner.

However, with regard to the issues concerning Representative Kobayashi, you also need to take into account that a public trial is about to be held on them. Insofar as Representative Kobayashi herself has not been indicted, the DPJ as a party is not presently considering disciplinary action against her.

At the same time, I believe that we are being urged to change politics systemically so as to prevent the recurrence of these kinds of problems to the greatest extent possible. For this reason, while it goes without saying that we must achieve greater transparency, I believe that it is necessary to enact a law which goes as far as to prohibit political contributions by businesses and organisations, if that would indeed serve as a fundamental solution which eradicates the root causes of these problems. I also regard drawing the line regarding the actions of each individual [suspected of irregularities] to be an important way forward. However, I believe we are also being called upon to create, with a view to the future, a state of affairs in which such problems never recur. Therefore, as I stated, what I consider important is focusing on the duty to explain and the enactment of the [kind of] bill [I mentioned].

Question: I have a question regarding the relocation of Futenma Air Station. Today you reiterated your intention to consider, so far as possible, a way forward so that the air station is relocated outside [Okinawa] prefecture. The fact that you emphasised relocation outside Okinawa yet again less than a week before the deadline you set, the end of March, for preparing the government's proposal would seem to suggest strong confidence that this is indeed possible. Is this view correct? You will recall that you raised expectations in the prefecture every time in the past when you referred to relocation elsewhere. Against this background are you indeed confident that this will happen?

And should it happen that relocation outside Okinawa proves difficult, how would you as Prime Minister apologise to the people of Okinawa, and how would you take political responsibility, having called until now for relocation outside the prefecture? Please explain your intention once again on these points.

Prime Minister: I consider it premature to already be discussing such an outcome, namely discussing how I would apologise should relocation outside the prefecture not take place despite having talked about it. I will be doing my utmost to ensure that such a situation does not occur. That is the way I should express my resolve. If I now had the time to think about an apology for not being able to achieve the desired outcome, I should rather be doing everything to prevent such an eventuality. That's that.

In any event, whichever place is to be asked to host Futenma's relocation site, it goes without saying that the government as a whole, myself included, will work cohesively in order to gain the understanding of the local people. And indeed the end of March is quickly approaching. For my part, I feel I am further enhancing my resolve and strong will. However, I hope you will appreciate that it is not right for me to say here where that site or those sites may be, or what I would do if the relocation does not proceed as I previously stated.

Question: Financial markets and the Japanese public have been voicing concern over Japan's severe fiscal conditions. If the Manifesto from last year's House of Representatives election were to be implemented without modification, there is no denying the possibility that the situation would worsen further. Should you have to choose, would you give precedence to upholding your election pledges or to maintaining fiscal discipline? And if you were to amend the Manifesto, how would get the electorate to understand this?

Prime Minister: Thank you [for your question]. In last year's election, we set forth a Manifesto as the DPJ. Naturally, we took the reins of government to deliver on that Manifesto, and we are now working with all our might to do so.

At the same time, as you are aware, the state of public finances continues to be very trying, and the situation has is becoming increasingly serious.

The Manifesto is of course being something that is essentially written by the party, so we have set up a Manifesto Review Committee within our party [for the House of Councillors election in July]. We will be advancing discussions from here on within that framework.

Among the public there are those on the one hand who say that that we should deliver on the Manifesto without changes, as it represents a public pledge. On the other, there are those who say that, while the importance of the Manifesto is obvious, they also appreciate the dire state of public finances, hence appropriate changes are in order. I believe both are valid arguments. I regard the views of the public to be extremely valuable, and we will hold serious discussions in the Review Committee, bearing in mind these valuable opinions.

Given what a Manifesto is, in principle we will do our best to adhere to it. Yet there are also increasingly strong calls, in particular by Mr [Naoto] Kan, Minister of Finance, that we must address the seriousness of public finances, for example refrain to the greatest possible extent from issuing more deficit-financing bonds. Taking the balance between these into account, we will deliberate the desirable state of public finances with a view to delivering on the Manifesto to the best of our ability. We are currently at the starting line, namely proceed with a reflection on the Manifesto and about to begin the formulation of a new Manifesto for the House of Councillors election.

Question: I would like to pay tribute to you for having taken this first step in making press conferences open to everyone, which no party had been able to do in the past.

In that connection, I would like to ask you a question regarding press conferences. At present, there is a lot of inconsistency within the Hatoyama Cabinet, as [ministers at] certain ministries and agencies are already holding press conferences which are open, while others' are still "closed" [to journalists who do not belong to the press club of the ministry in question], and with some ministers conducting two press conferences [one for the press club of his/her ministry and the other for other journalists], a state which could be characterised as being half-open.

Until now, press conferences at the Prime Minister's Office were not open, thus each ministry or agency continued to take its own decision on whether or not to open its own press conferences to everyone. Now, with your press conferences becoming open in this way, do you intend to take the initiative to establish standards or guidelines on how press conferences at all other ministries and agencies should be made open to everyone under the Hatoyama government?

In particular, among those which are not open at present, I highlight press conferences at the Public Prosecutor's Office. Also, although you made your press conference open today, the same has not been done with press conferences by the Chief Cabinet Secretary. I would like to hear your thoughts, in particular on these two specific points.

Prime Minister: You inquired whether there are discrepancies concerning the state of press conferences being held by Cabinet members. Although fundamentally we would like to make all press conferences open, each minister may have his or her own reasons, which derive from the nature of the problem [and do not make opening press conferences always possible], or there may be other reasons such as the limited size of press conference rooms.

However I, the Prime Minister, will be making my press conferences open, and I will be telling all Cabinet ministers that I will be doing so. We should avoid giving the impression that there are inconsistencies within the Cabinet; rather, the Cabinet should demonstrate to the public its attitude on information disclosure and its openness to the people. Since you asked, I intend to address the Cabinet on this point, seeking a united approach.

Question: I would like to ask about your ideas on rebuilding public finances.

In your opening remarks you touched upon consultations among the ruling and opposition parties regarding fiscal reconstruction, pensions, and social security. Meanwhile the Minister of Finance, Mr Kan, has spoken about enacting a law to restore the soundness of government finances. How do you intend to proceed with rebuilding public finances? Also, I would like to ask at what timing you intend actually to call for consultations between the ruling and opposition camps regarding pensions, social security, and fiscal reconstruction.

Prime Minister: Thank you [for your question]. We have on the one hand a very serious fiscal situation, and on the other a very severe economic situation. Therefore, in order to revitalise local economies, including Hokkaido in particular, within the Cabinet there are strong calls even now for further mobilising government finances, as you know. Yet, the cost of social security is growing by one trillion yen annually, with vast increases in the cost of medical care and other areas. In light of this, if we completely abandon fiscal discipline, we would be in danger of triggering a precipitous fall in government bond prices.

Consequently, the Minister of Finance, Mr Kan believes that the government should formulate something akin to a law on fiscal soundness which Mr Yoshimasa Hayashi, LDP member of the House of Representatives is taking the lead in drafting, and I am in full agreement with this view. On our part, in June we will set forth a mid-term fiscal framework. I fully believe that we must formulate a sound strategy for the management of public finances. I believe that in so doing we should be as serious as to make [fiscal] soundness a legal requirement. When this is to be done, I believe it will be necessary to have cooperation or consultations that transcend the lines between the ruling and opposition parties.

But allow me to say once more, even at the risk of being repetitive, that it is important first of all that the government should first set forth its own views. During such efforts by the government it may eventually prove necessary to hold discussions with the opposition.

Therefore, to give you a timeline on this, as June will be one rough deadline, there is a possibility just before or after that time that we would take the steps I mentioned.

Question: The drop in approval ratings of both the Cabinet and the DPJ has yet to be stemmed. I am from the grassroots media, editing and writing while listening directly to the voices of the voters.

I would argue that a major reason for this unpopularity is not the issue of "politics and money" as indicated by opinion polls conducted by the major agencies, but rather because people's lives have not improved at all even after the change to a DPJ-led government. The feeling that people's lives are in fact worse than in the LDP days-that is the "magma" that is building up rapidly.

One of the major reasons for the political confusion is the Kantei's [Prime Minister's Office's] utter inability to coordinate. It is too harsh to demand that Mr [Hirofumi] Hirano, Chief Cabinet Secretary do what is beyond his abilities. But [the current situation] is a greater tragedy for the Japanese people. Are you not thinking of changing the Chief Cabinet Secretary? This is the ardent wish of the public.

Prime Minister: First of all, I consider the Chief Cabinet Secretary to be doing very well to meet the demands of his job. As far the functions of Kantei not being sufficient in every case, I believe that naturally there are some improvements to be made on an urgent basis. As for the lack of improvement in people's daily lives, while execution of the second supplementary budget [of fiscal 2009] has begun, the budget [for fiscal 2010, which begins on 1 April] was only passed two days ago. I firmly believe that from now on this budget will have direct positive impacts on people's daily lives.

We considered that in order somehow to eradicate the current deflation, it was important directly to stimulate domestic demand and household budgets. Thus we proposed and successfully enacted both the child allowance and free tuition at senior high schools. I am confident that when such measures are implemented, people, in particular those among the lower-income groups, will have a real sense that their daily lives have improved, and that these changes took place after the new government has taken office. As for the assertion that people's lives have not yet improved, I would like the public to understand that this is due to the lingering effect of the budget or policy directions laid out by the former government, and that this will change from now. If the views that things have not changed, or they have become worse, remain on the Internet even after seeing these changes that have taken place, then at that point we will need to think what further to do

Question: Having now enacted the budget, presumably you will be accelerating preparations for the House of Councillors election. Given the serious situation you are in with Cabinet approval ratings very low, what sort of goal do you have in mind at present with regard to the borderline between victory and defeat? And, should you fail to meet that target, how are you prepared to take responsibility for the results?

Prime Minister: Only two days have passed since the enactment of the budget. The only thing I now have in my mind is how expeditiously I can implement this budget and how quickly I can redirect people's lives in a positive direction. In the course of deliberations on the budget, various debates took place, in particular on such matters as the structural reinforcement of school buildings to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. Right now I am preoccupied with the ways to address such issues.

While I recognise that the House of Councillors election, being in July, is not so far off, at present I am not in a position to lay forth the borderline between victory and defeat in that election. In consultation with the party's Secretary General I intend to fashion measures to mount a robust campaign in the election and emerge victorious. At that time I do intend to set some borderline for the DPJ, but I am not yet in a position to consider that line.

Question: You mentioned a little earlier that you are considering the submission of a bill to restore the soundness of government finances. Is it really possible to prepare a bill that reliably ensures fiscal soundness, on the premise that you will refrain from raising the consumption tax rate during the four years of your term of office? What are your thoughts on this?

Prime Minister: I don't consider that to be impossible by any means. I have pledged to the Japanese people that I will not increase the consumption tax rate while I am at the helm of government. This pledge should not be changed lightly, I feel.

I too am fully aware that under such conditions, considering a blueprint for soundness in public finances would be very challenging, or difficult.

However, it is also true in my view that there are very loud calls from the public to the DPJ that we should thoroughly seek out more waste and [for this purpose] exhaustively examine such entities as independent administrative corporations and public interest corporations one by one. As for the first round of the review of government programmes, the public praised us for having made a good effort despite the shortage of time available. I feel it essential that we should now devote further efforts in this area.

In order to do so, I recently made a proposal to the Secretary General, noting that we have 140 first-term [House of Representatives] lawmakers [from the DPJ] and first-term members of the House of Councillors [also from the party]. I said that I would like each of these capable junior lawmakers to be given the responsibility thoroughly to review independent public corporations and public interest corporations. With the help of many dozens of these people we would be able to conduct a very thorough review, including on areas where spending could be cut, thus meet public expectations.

Nevertheless, I suspect some will point out that this alone is insufficient. The manner in which we construct the framework for public finances is without question a matter that will be extremely challenging. Yet as we continue to uphold the pledge we have made [concerning the consumption tax], not just for one year but for two, three, or four years, I do not see creating a future blueprint as impossible by any means.

Question: I would like to express my sincere thanks to you for having held this open press conference in this fashion today.

First, I believe that this is neither a final outcome nor a finished state, but rather a first step so far as information disclosure in Japan is concerned.

As the Soviet Union was in the stage of collapsing, the Gorbachev administration launched perestroika, and the first step in this was the disclosure of information, or glasnost. I look forward to all press conferences at each ministry and agency becoming fully open in the future, so that this can be the first step in the dawn of Japan's own glasnost.

As for my questions, first, concerning the state of information disclosure, on the Kantei website video images [of press conferences] are not available, and the records of the press conferences, while available as text, do not specify the individuals who asked questions. Even when the person posing the question states his or her name and corporate affiliation, the records simply indicate "question" and "answer".

At all the press conferences which have been made open thus far, i.e. those by the Financial Services Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mr [Yukio] Edano, Minister of State [for Government Revitalisation] within the Cabinet Office, I made that same point on the first day, respectively, that the identities of the persons asking the questions are also facts that should be known, from the viewpoint of the public. I believe that the public wants to have all the information disclosed and to have access to this information, including on the journalists who asked questions and the company to which they belong, on the kind of question they asked, and on the way the minister responded. Do you intend to institute an open format in which all these points are made clear?

As for my next question, dissatisfaction was expressed by some correspondents here that you do not hold press conferences very often. In the future, could you host a press conference youself rather than take part in a press conference organised by the Press Club, and thereby create a forum in which a larger number of freelancers and Internet media correspondents, as well as media correspondents and journalists without vested interests and who were unable to take part in press conferences until now, can easily participate. I wonder if you would consider creating such an opportunity.

I would like you to address these two points.

Prime Minister: Thank you very much. I feel rather ambivalent at your comparison with the Soviet Union's glasnost within perestroika, somewhat pleased but also disappointed in being told that we hadn't reached that stage till now. Nonetheless I'm grateful for your positive evaluation.

I too believe that the degree of openness of this press conference is still insufficient. As you can see, we are at capacity today, and while there are issues in setting up the venue, I would like to say that I will work to make my press conferences even more open, to the greatest possible extent.

Concerning your question about the website, I should like to look into the matter, including the points of who is asking each question and the corresponding answer, as well as who is answering. The persons asking the questions are of course not demanding that we conceal their names, and moreover they too have a certain responsibility to bear. Therefore, I basically believe that their names should be disclosed. These are my personal views on this matter. I should like to do this if possible.

Now, for the other matter, namely that I should hold press conferences that I organise myself in a more open format, rather than only take part in press conferences that are organised by the Press Club. I did organize a press conference myself concerning the issue of my political funds, which is perhaps a matter which I wouldn't have chosen to mention here, but this example shows that at times I do hold my own press conferences. As for making [the other kind] more open, this is a matter which needs to be discussed thoroughly with the Press Club, among others, since it was raised earlier today. I should like to respond to the voices of the public calling for greater information disclosure, and in terms of holding press conferences more frequently, I would hope to be able to hold a greater number which I organise myself. However we do have the Press Club system, so I should like to consider the matter thoroughly and proactively find a solution within the context of that system.

Question: Thank you very much.

Question: I have a question concerning the postal reforms bill.

It seems that the Cabinet is in some confusion, but to ask you bluntly, do you favour adopting the proposal put forward by Mr [Shizuka] Kamei[, Minister of State for Postal Reform,] without making changes, so far as the maximum amount of deposits and postal insurance payments per person are concerned, or do you think that these limits should be lowered somewhat? And, will you exercise your own leadership on this issue?

Also, there has been some futile discussion on whether you gave your consent or not [to Mr Kamei's proposals]. Did you not in fact say to Minister Kamei that you would to some degree leave things to his discretion? Please allow me to reconfirm this point.

Prime Minister: Your question is about postal reforms, mainly concerning the upper limits of postal deposits and postal insurance payments per person.

This matter has not reached the stage where the Cabinet has taken a decision. Therefore what I proposed with regard to this matter at both the Cabinet meeting and the gathering of ministers [held today] is that, as this matter should not be considered merely as a financial issue, we should certainly have an exchange of views with the broad participation of every Cabinet member.

On this coming Tuesday, I believe, we will have a thorough discussion with all Cabinet members taking part, as a result of which I hope the right conclusions shall be found.

By the way, I have no intention of engaging in a futile discussion [on what I and Mr Kamei said or did not say]. An important point is that, if one were to criticise all cases as amounting to "disunity within the Cabinet" where individuals Cabinet members express their personal views concerning issues on which Cabinet decisions have yet to be taken, that would inhibit all kinds of free discussion. Quite the contrary, I believe that uninhibited debate should take place [over issues at that stage].

I believe that the essence of real political leadership lies in having everyone abide by the ultimate conclusion when the final decision is taken. I strongly hope all of you [journalists] would consider it actually healthy that various views should exist among Cabinet members before a Cabinet decision is reached, and rather that the previous state of affairs, in which ministers to a large extent delegated their areas of responsibility to the bureaucracy, thus rarely voicing their own opinions, was unhealthy.

Ultimately, it will of course be critical to exhibit leadership, and in the end I intend to draw this together into a single direction. I express my respect to Minister Kamei and Minister [Kazuhiro] Haraguchi[, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications,] in particular for the central roles they have played thus far on this matter. While a final decision has yet to be taken, figures which have been quoted in formal answers in Diet committees and elsewhere must be given due weight, a fact that I believe all members of the Cabinet will need to take into account in forthcoming discussions.