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Friday, April 21, 2006
Reform timeline approved by Lower House
By MASAMI ITO
The House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday giving the timeline for a range of administrative reforms to be implemented in the next several years.
The bill, the capstone of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's reform agenda, cleared with a majority vote of the ruling coalition -- the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
Included in the proposed legislation are plans on cutting the number of public employees, currently about 687,000, by 5 percent by fiscal 2010, consolidating eight state-backed financial institutions into a single public body in fiscal 2008, and reassessing independent administrative agencies.
The House of Counselors is expected to begin deliberations on the bill next Monday.
The bill is part of Koizumi's plan to create what he calls a "simple and efficient government," by trimming state assets, which in turn, he says, will help cut the huge national debt.
The Democratic Party of Japan has been critical of the bill, saying the reform plans lack detail. The largest opposition party had submitted an amended version of the bill, but it was voted down.
During Thursday's plenary session, DPJ lawmaker Yosuke Kondo slammed the bill, saying the public will become victim to the government's obsession with reform.
"The contents (of the bill) do not consider the lives of the general public, nor does it listen to the voices of the" people, Kondo said. The bill "is empty and hollow, just keeping up appearances and leaving most of the details to the bureaucrats."
After the bill was approved, DPJ lawmaker Masayuki Naoshima issued a statement saying the biggest problem with the bill was that it does not address corruption in the civil service.