Today, with the world in the midst of momentous change, Japan must open a path to the future by devising a long-term vision of what its economy and society should become, and it must initiate action toward the vision's realization.
Now that half a century has passed since the end of World War II, it may be said that the majority of the Japanese are satisfied with their lives, but I strongly feel that the political, economic, and social systems that have supported Japan's advancement to date are reaching an impasse in various respects, with a resulting loss of vitality and orientation in every sector of society. The dawning age of advanced information systems and megacompetition, in which Japan is becoming a society with many elderly and few children, has confronted us with new needs that are not being adequately met.
If Japan chooses to remain complacent and fails to reform itself, it may well be left behind in the new round of global progress; incapable of contributing to the world economy's growth, it may even be unable to maintain its standard of living. If we fail to tackle the problems now before us, contenting ourselves with symptomatic treatment instead of radical surgery, our country's very future may be jeopardized.
I myself am convinced that Japan has great potential. It should be possible for our nation to surmount the difficulties facing it--but only if we demonstrate sufficient resolve and make necessary efforts. This is precisely why it is high time for us to pool our energies and create "an attractive Japan," a country that gives the young hope for the future and is perceived by people around the world as a desirable place to live, do business, and study. We must establish a new Japanese identity, one that can elicit the trust and respect of the international community.
The inherent aim of an economy is to enrich human lives materially and allow human beings to fulfill themselves spiritually. As we formulate a vision for the future, therefore, we must return to the basics and fundamentally reengineer our socioeconomic arrangements. On this basis, we must apply ourselves to educating youths, reorganizing our lifestyles, and cultivating the everyday environment.
The will to implement reforms and demonstrate creativity will not flower if we lack the resolve to face the future. For this reason, too, we must engage in soul-searching, take a hard look at the realities around us, and draft a blueprint of the kind of society we see as ideal, a society that treasures the spirit of self-help. And then we must directly address the task of bringing this society into being. However great the pains and difficulties entailed, this is a challenge we must accept for the sake of Japan's future.
Work on the long-term vision we present here began in 1995. We sought expert advice from many scholars and opinion leaders in various fields, and we repeatedly exchanged views among Keidanren's principal members. Since 1996 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Keidanren's foundation, the project was designed to culminate in the publication of the vision at the start of this milestone year. While many parts of the vision remain but rough sketches, we hope it can serve as a proposition from the business community on how a new Japan can be crafted, and we will welcome comments and criticism from all quarters.
With the support and cooperation of everybody concerned, we at Keidanren are resolved to embark on the creation of "an attractive Japan."