TOYODA Shoichiro

A series of disasters and tragedies in the past few years have called into question the effectiveness of Japan's systems for safeguarding life and property. In addition to the devastating Kobe Earthquake, Japanese have experienced a volcanic eruption and, most recently, the mass terrorism of the sarin poison gas attack on Tokyo's subway system. Those events have underlined the need to develop better mechanisms for ensuring safety and peace of mind for all Japanese.

Life is gradually returning to normal in the areas affected by the earthquake. In early April, service resumed on the Shinkansen bullet train line through Kobe. Department stores and shops have reopened. But numerous people continue to live in temporary shelters. And the Port of Kobe and other elements of the economic and industrial infrastructure will require a long time to return to normal functioning.

As we press ahead with the rebuilding effort, we also need to consider long-term measures for protecting people from future disasters. Safety and peace of mind are fundamental. They are a prerequisite, for example, for the economic vitality that we are promoting through deregulation and other measures.

We need to design and build municipal and national infrastructure that can withstand disasters. And we need to equip our national and local governments and our companies with improved crisis-management capabilities. We also need to move some government functions away from Tokyo to reduce our national exposure to the risk of a serious earthquake there.

The government already is taking some steps in the right direction. It is bolstering its mechanisms for providing the prime minister and other ministers with up-to-the-minute information about emergencies. That will support a prompter and better-coordinated response in the event of disasters. The government also is moving to revise its basic and procedural frameworks for coping with disasters.

We at Keidanren are eager to do everything we can to support those moves. We also want to help by evaluating pertinent issues through our committees and by proposing initiatives. Our member companies can do their part by developing dedicated communications links and by structuring emergency lines of command.

Business has a crucial role to play in supporting the rebuilding effort in and around Kobe. But we have an equally important role to play in laying the groundwork for a safer and better-prepared Japan.

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