*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
Thoughts on the Resignation en Masse
Since taking office last October, I have addressed various challenges over the span of about ten months. I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to the members of the press club.
I have striven to provide a stable supply of energy that is essential for citizens' lives and economic activities. The recovery from the pandemic and decline in investment into resource development have resulted in surging prices of crude oil, energy, and other natural resources. In addition, Russia's aggression against Ukraine has caused the situation to become even severer.
We have poured our efforts into responses to secure a stable supply of LNG, including mitigation measures against sudden fluctuations in the price of fuel oil and maintaining stakes in the Sakhalin projects.
We also decided in March and April to release oil stockpiles in cooperation with the IEA, for the first time since the national oil stockpiling system was established in 1978. In March, we issued a tight power supply warning for the first time, and asked people to conserve energy at an emergency press conference. Thanks to the cooperation of citizens and business operators, we were able to avoid power outages.
As a result of securing additional supply capacity by conducting a public call this summer, we were able to secure a stable supply. To prepare for the winter, we are considering reactivating nuclear power plants and facilitating the restarting of non-operational power plants through a public call.
Last month, the whole government started discussions at the GX Implementation Council. I was appointed a minister in charge of promoting the implementation of GX. In order to transition to an industrial structure based on clean energy, 150 trillion yen is needed in public and private investments over the next ten years.
We have begun discussions on raising 20 trillion yen in government funds by issuing green transition bonds and investing it as soon as possible. As a prerequisite for this, we also began reorganizing a stable supply of energy.
Since assuming office, I have visited Fukushima three times to talk to people in the affected areas. Disposing of the ALPS treated water is an unavoidable issue necessary to steadily decommission the reactors. We formulated an action plan at the end of 2021 to foster understanding and guard against reputational damage.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority recently approved a plan to prepare the facilities for releasing the water, and we will continue efforts to dispel the concerns of fisheries and other parties.
This year, we were able to lift the evacuation order for the Specified Reconstruction and Revitalization Base Areas in Okuma Town and Katsurao Village. We have plans to lift the order in Futaba Town this month, as well. We also launched the Fukushima Hamadori Cinema and Arts Project.
We have invited film directors such as Katsuyuki Motohiro and Isshin Inudo to hold a film event featuring middle and high school students and other young people.
We held exchange events at roadside stations in Hamadori, Fukushima and in Hachioji, Tokyo—my hometown—to spread the word about delicious food from Fukushima.
We will continue to work on decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and reconstructing Fukushima, as they are the most important issues facing Japan.
As a new policy, we launched new economic and industrial policies to achieve economic growth with the goal of solving social and economic issues such as those in the areas of green and digital technologies. In doing this, both the government and businesses have taken the first step to increasing investment.
In order to establish domestic manufacturing bases for advanced semiconductors, we amended the 5G Promotion Act and NEDO Act and secured a budget of 617 billion yen. We recently authorized the first two projects.
I believe that developing human resources in the semiconductor field is important as well as providing support for hardware. Using my experience as Minister of MEXT, I began efforts in Kyushu and Tohoku to unite the national government with local ones, and industry with universities, technical colleges, and other educational institutions.
In addition, we supported the construction of dual-use facilities that can manufacture biopharmaceuticals in ordinary times and switch to manufacturing vaccines when necessary. I think that project is a fitting symbol of the new form of capitalism.
During my two years as Minister of MEXT, I worked on developing human resources. In order to respond to major changes in the future, such as digitization and decarbonization, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to find problems by oneself and come up with innovative ideas.
I suggested this at a meeting of the Council for the Creation of Future Education—which I was involved in the founding of as Minister of MEXT—and included it in its first proposal.
I went on six trips abroad as part of external economic policy. I also held meetings with more than fifty foreign dignitaries in Japan. I think I built relationships based on personal trust.
In particular, I attended the first Japan-US Economic 2+2 and deepened discussions on topics such as building economic frameworks like the IPEF, protecting and fostering critical and emerging technologies, and making supply chains of semiconductors and other items more resilient.
I believe that Japan and the United States were able to send a unified message regarding economic security as proof that they were able to start a new chapter in the Japan-US alliance.
I also attended the first meeting of the Quad Energy Ministers in Sydney, where the participants agreed on the importance of accelerating technological development and ensuring energy and security for the transition to clean energy.
Regarding business continuities of SMEs and improving productivity and transactions, we supported SMEs in the harsh situation under the pandemic to stay in business through measures such as extending substantially interest-free loans with no collateral and providing a business revival support subsidy.
In addition to supporting businesses, we also promoted business development through productivity improvement via measures such the Business Restructuring Subsidy for growth after the pandemic. In order to promote the passing on of cost increases through higher prices that will lead to higher wages, we established two price negotiation months in a year and provided guidance and advice based on the Act on the Promotion of Subcontracting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.
In addition, we promoted the Declaration of Partnership Building initiative aiming for co-existence and co-prosperity in the entire supply chain, in which more than 12,000 companies participated.
Finally, I have been saying this to METI staff. When I was the MEXT Minister, I did a lot of work with METI staff. The staff in MEXT were relatively docile, so I saw some cases where METI staff took over work that was normally done by MEXT. I thought they were amazingly agile, in a good way. I also thought the people in METI were audacious. When I became the Minister, I knew that I had not been mistaken. However, I came to highly appreciate their mobility and dynamism.
I hope that this office will keep its way of doing things as its tradition.
I just have one thing to emphasize. The employees of this office like new things, jump at new policies, and work very eagerly at first, but after they change departments, they lose interest in the things they were involved with, as if they never happened. I told them that they must not do that.
I said that if MEXT staff were a student council president, METI staff would be a chairperson of a culture festival organizing committee. They work hard for a short time, but they are unwilling to cooperate in doing other things. They must change their attitude. They must keep themselves interested in everything they have worked on in every department they were in—everything in the office that they were involved with as a government official, from the time they're young until they're a manager—and keep track of what happened to them. I have continuously said that if we make a system like that, METI will be able to demonstrate more power, so even if they change departments, they should stay meddlesome and follow up on what they worked on until the very end.
I think it is also important to continue policies and see them through until the very end. I hope they remember to do that and work hard.
That is all from me.