The Japanese economy, trapped in the worst recession since the end of the second world war, posted a negative growth in 1998 for the second consecutive year. But by late last autumn significant progress was made in the efforts to turn the economy around. Now we have in place both policy frameworks for reviving the nation's ailing financial system and a very large fiscal program to stimulate economic activity.
The government and the private sector this year must tackle the task of economic recovery with all their energies and a firm determination so 1999 will be remembered as when our economy has begun to rebound. Now this has become a weighty responsibility imposed on this country in relation to the rest of the world.
I hope that the government will apply bold macro-economic measures with speed and decisiveness, providing a powerful boost to the economy. Obviously, private businesses are the main engine of economic revival. They should devote every available resource to strengthen their ability to compete in the global marketplace.
Only two years before the coming of the next century, we must hold a serious national debate on what manner of economic society we want to have for ourselves in the future. And we should begin to take action toward structural changes that are found as necessary. In fact, there already is broad consensus over the direction of reform over medium- and longer-term issues such as smaller government, a fundamental tax system reform, and a restructuring of the social security system. Also important is the task of creating industrial underpinnings of the nation's future prosperity. For this purpose, the government and the private sector should work together in establishing a strategic industrial policy and developing new fields of industry and business opportunities.
I hope that the New Year will see a major stride taken in pushing ahead with structural reform and building a solid platform that can support economic development of the next century. This will help release private business vitality and enable the people to look with hope to the future once again.
Keidanren sets high value on "private business independence, self-help and self-accountability." In line with these principles, we hope to initiate, this year as we did in the past, timely proposals for public policy and see them translated into results. We ask your continued guidance and cooperation.