The GIAJ Chairman's Statement (Translation)
(Dec. 17, 2015

Hisahito Suzuki, ChairmanHisahito Suzuki, Chairman

 It has been almost six months since I was appointed Chairman of the GIAJ.
I would like to report on our activities and related events so far.

1. Priority measures

(1) Awareness-raising and educational activities for consumers

 We have held our twelfth annual 'Exploration for Disaster Prevention' program for elementary school students. During the period of the event, we launched unique initiatives in each region, such as participation of the elderly and collaboration with a government project to promote learning activities on Saturdays. As a result, a record 2,506 entries were submitted to the 'safety map-making campaign' from 588 groups. Along with maps calling for attention regarding traffic accidents, amid the growing interest in disaster prevention and reduction, many show evacuation routes to be used in times of tsunamis and floods, especially in view of elderly residents. A panel of experts has chosen 17 winners, 9 of which will be invited to an awards ceremony on January 23, 2016.

 To mark the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, on March 8, 2016, we will organize a symposium in Tokyo for university students on disaster prevention and reduction. Given the increasing concern regarding the possibility of massive natural disasters including an epicentral earthquake in the Tokyo metropolitan area, we have to keep in mind the lessons learned from past devastating disasters, which have been described as national crises, and utilize them. With the symposium as a turning point, we will further heighten awareness of the risks associated with catastrophes as well as disaster prevention and reduction among college students who will lead the next generation, so that they can better appreciate the importance of both self-help and mutual-help.

(2) Promoting earthquake insurance

 Focusing on the 11 prefectures that we designated as priority regions this fiscal year, in October we began a series of public forums. So far, we have held events in Hokkaido, Toyama, Nagano, Kyoto, and Hyogo, which were attended by many locals. With the goal of disseminating the significance of self-help and mutual-help to cope with earthquakes, these forums offered lectures on regional quake risks and disaster prevention plans, provided by earthquake specialists, public sector experts in charge of disaster prevention, and representatives from the Regional Independent insurance Agents of Japan, Inc. Through such regional activities, we will continue to enhance public understanding of the earthquake insurance system's effectiveness.

(3) Disaster prevention and reduction that takes local characteristics into account

 Including Typhoons Goni and Etau, many natural disasters have inflicted severe damage and losses across the Kanto and Tohoku regions as well as the Kyushu region this year. In order to reduce associated losses, disaster prevention and reduction are becoming more and more crucial.

 We will start a promotional campaign in Kyoto, Wakayama, Hiroshima, Tokushima, and Kumamoto Prefecture on disaster prevention and reduction that matches local features. On December 20 in Kumamoto, given the risk of a Mount Aso eruption, we will have university professors and other experts give lectures on the characteristics of volcanic disasters as well as prevention and reduction measures. In Tokushima, with an eye on the earthquake risks associated with the Nankai Trough, we are planning to hold evacuation drills for preschoolers. Our planned activities in the other prefectures will also take region-specific disasters into account, such as quakes, tsunamis, floods, and landslides.

2. Other specific measures

(1) Super-aging society

 As Japan has the most rapidly aging population in the world, it is imperative to prevent and reduce accidents involving the elderly. In addition to the measures taken during the annual 'road safety campaign', we also cooperated with municipalities in the distribution of our traffic accident prevention leaflets as well as other awareness-raising activities. We will steadily advance such efforts towards accident prevention.

 In light of our super-aging society, we established a task force under the 'Customer's Voices and Experts Advisory Council' in May. Experts compiled opinions based on a study of possible challenges and the roles that the industry should exercise. Based on the report from the task force, we will continue examining how we can help build worry-free, safe local communities through general insurance businesses.

(2) Globalization

 In September, the GIAJ spoke at a global seminar on disaster risk financing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was in response to an invitation from the OECD Secretariat, one of the co-hosts of the event, which highly appreciated our initiatives on the 'Exploration for Disaster Prevention' program and other activities at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction back in March. At the seminar, we explained the objectives, contents and effects of our consumer educational programs, which cater for different age groups. The presentation attracted great interest among the audience.

(3) Emerging risks

 Technological innovations are producing new types of services in various industries. Practical applications of self-driving cars and nursing-care robots, which are already being put to verification tests, are expected to help solve structural problems induced by Japan's aging population.

 Meanwhile, such practical applications of new technologies could transform the quality of risks, and entail challenges such as the improvement of roads and other infrastructures. Currently, a full-scale examination by the parties involved toward the development of legal frameworks and infrastructures is underway. Following past analysis of the relationship between technological advances and existing laws, we will proceed with a technical, diversified study, considering expert views as well as business practices and legal precedents.

(4) Consumer consultations, complaints, and dispute settlement

 We have strengthened the functions of the 'General Insurance ADR Center', which deals with consumer consultations, complaints, and dispute settlements. Based on the monitoring of consumer responses, we introduced a new educational program that offers staff training. By analyzing the consumer voices collected at the ADR Center and providing feedback to our member companies, we will continue to improve the industry-wide quality of insurance business administration to raise the level of the public's confidence in us.

(5) Tax reform petitions

 Considering the frequent occurrence of natural catastrophes, improvement of the catastrophe reserve system is essential for insurers to fulfill their social mission of ensuring claim payments. In our tax reform petitions, we called for broadening the reserve system concerning fire insurance, etc., as a priority issue. On December 16, the package of fiscal 2016 tax revisions was released. In line with our requests, the package now allows for the continuation of the current accumulation rate at five percent. The package also includes a review of measures against tax havens, in which exemptions criteria will be re-examined to reflect the fact that the activities of Japanese insurer subsidiaries within the Lloyd's market are not being undertaken for tax avoidance purposes.

3. Conclusion

 Half a year has passed since the start of my tenure. Time passes quickly, with less than 2 weeks to go until year-end. As I explained upon my appointment back in June, this year we are particularly advocating the importance of self-help and mutual help through our activities to promote 'natural disaster awareness' and 'educational activities for consumers'. While we have made steady progress thanks to the cooperation of the parties involved, these goals cannot be achieved overnight. Therefore, we recognize that it is essential to continue our community-oriented activities.

 As indicated by the frequent occurrence of natural disasters, uncertainty about the situation surrounding us is increasing. However, by implementing the above measures, we are determined to fulfill our role in helping 'build a worry-free, safe society'.

 We would highly appreciate your continued support and cooperation.