________________________________________________________________________ Japanese government reform plan released ____________________________________________________________________________ Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net Copyright ) 1997 Reuters TOKYO (December 3, 1997 08:23 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - A Japanese government panel Wednesday released a blueprint for overhauling the nation's bureaucracy, but the contents were drastically scaled back from Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's original ambitions. A follow-up to an interim plan released in August, the report, calls for reducing Japan's 22 ministries and agencies into one cabinet agency and 12 ministries and agencies starting in 2001. The administrative reform plan will be submitted to parliament in January for implementation. The politically sensitive issues of reforming the postal and finance ministries were either left out or pushed back in the final package, mainly because Hashimoto was not able to muster a political consensus for his overhaul plans. In the August interim report, the government's reform panel recommended privatizing the postal insurance system, known as Kampo, and moving the postal savings and mail services to a new agency as part of a disbanding of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Many experts have urged Kampo's privatization, in part because a failure to do so would leave a large chunk of the financial sector immune to Hashimoto's "Big Bang" reforms. The Posts Ministry reform proposals have been eliminated from the final report, which recommends forming public companies within the next five years to oversee Kampo, as well as the postal savings system and mail services. Political pressure has been mounting within Hashimoto's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) against privatization because it would force numerous civil servants, who support the ruling party, out of work. In another step back from the interim report, the LDP and and its cabinet allies decided to put off releasing a report on splitting up the Finance Ministry until sometime before the January start of parliament.
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