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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Toyko
"The new prime minister's promise of reform has stirred up expectations to fever pitch"
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Monday, 7 May, 2001, 07:03 GMT 08:03 UK
Koizumi outlines vision for reform
Junichiro Koizumi
All eyes are on Koizumi and his economic promises
Japan's new prime minister on Monday pledged drastic structural reforms to boost the country's troubled economy in his first major policy speech since taking power last month.

In a 30-minute speech before parliament, Junichiro Koizumi, carefully stressed that economic recovery would be his first job.

I want to carry out reforms that could be called the 'New Century Restoration', we want to establish a new economic and social system that's appropriate for the 21st century

Junichiro Koizumi
"The top priority entrusted to me is to reinvigorate the economy and establish a society that's full of confidence and pride," Mr Koizumi said, reiterating his earlier vows to institute "economic, fiscal, administrative, social and political structural reforms."

Mr Koizumi also pledged to rebuild the country's debt-riddled financial sector, rein in government debt by limiting new bond issues to 30 trillion yen ($245bn) in the 2002 fiscal year, and promote work opportunities for women.

International relations

On foreign policy, Mr Koizumi again stressed the importance of the relationship with the United States, and vowed to work with China, South Korea and Russia to keep the peace in north-east Asia.

He also said he would study how Japan should respond to a security emergency.

Mr Koizumi, who has staked his career on reform, took office last month after defeating the old guard of the long-ruling - and increasingly unpopular - Liberal Democratic Party.

The new premier has made structural reform of the troubled Japanese economy the centrepiece of his tenure.

Revolutionary change

In his speech Mr Koizumi pushed the idea of revolutionary change, comparing the coming era to the 1868 Meiji Restoration that ended Japan's feudal period and began its race to catch up with the West.

Makiko Tanaka
Koizumi has appointed Japan's first female foreign minister

"I want to carry out reforms that could be called the 'New Century Restoration'," he said. "We want to establish a new economic and social system that's appropriate for the 21st century."

He also appeared to be preparing the country for some of the more painful side-effects of structural reforms, which could result at least in the short term with more unemployment as companies adjust to a more competitive environment.

'Endure the pain'

Mr Koizumi urged people to "endure the pain of the present to make tomorrow better."

Mr Koizumi so far has largely kept to his campaign vows of an unorthodox, populist government, naming a record five women to cabinet posts.

He has also used his short time in office to spark a national debate by proposing revising the constitution for the first time since it was instituted in 1947, to allow the direct popular election of prime minister.

The approach, at least for the short-term, has been wildly popular.

Several polls by Japanese media have found the new government's approval rating at more than 80%.

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See also:

26 Apr 01 | Business
Japan's new economic team
26 Apr 01 | Business
Japan's economic outlook bleak
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Junichiro Koizumi
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Japan's leap into the unknown
26 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
New Japan cabinet causes stir
24 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asian fears over new Japanese leader
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