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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cabinet OKs 'amakudari' bill, bureaucrat reform

Staff writer

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a bill aimed at ending the "amakudari" practice of ministries and agencies helping their retiring senior bureaucrats land high-paying jobs in the industries they once supervised

Also approved was an agreement to craft a bill on overall civil service reform.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the amakudari bill the biggest reform of the system in 60 years, but the opposition camp questioned whether it will change the practice, which has led to corruption and collusion between the government and private industry.

The government will submit the bill to the Diet on Wednesday and try to get it passed before the current session ends in June.

The bill would create a new job center under the direct supervision of the Cabinet secretariat by the end of 2008, and in the next three years ministries would gradually hand over the task of helping their bureaucrats get new jobs. A panel of experts would be appointed to come up with a plan for the center.

The Cabinet also approved an agreement reached April 13 between the government and the ruling coalition to write and submit a bill next year on reforming the civil service. The bill will include increasing the retirement age and promoting a merit-based evaluation system.

"I hope public servants, through this reform, will work with confidence and dignity, based on their ability," Abe said.

However, these reform efforts have been criticized as still leaving loopholes for the ministries to retain some of their influence.

For example, the center's operations would be subject to review five years after it is set up.

The opposition camp has said amakudari will continue under the plan and that the bill is aimed only at pleasing the public ahead of the critical Upper House election in July.

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