Ministries state opposition to reform

The foreign, finance and health and welfare ministries all reacted cautiously May 14 to proposed organizational changes necessary to realize Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s pledge of slimming down the government.

During the second round of hearings on ministries and agencies by Hashimoto’s blue-ribbon panel on administrative reform, officials at the Finance Ministry maintained that it should remain responsible for both fiscal and monetary policies despite a call by some lawmakers to have two separate bodies for the two policies, according to officials of the panel’s secretariat.

The ministry officials pointed out that there is no country in the Group of Seven industrialized nations that has a minister responsible for fiscal policy and another responsible for monetary policy. They said one minister should be given a mandate to oversee both policies because otherwise he or she would be unable to discuss important issues at G-7 meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors.

According to the panel officials, some members of the Administrative Reform Council sided with the Finance Ministry, while others said the two policies may as well fall under the jurisdiction of two separate government organizations.

On the question of whether to transfer the ministry’s job of compiling the budget to the Cabinet, most panel members shared the view that it should remain in the hands of the Finance Ministry because simply transferring the ministry’s budget compilation staff to the prime minister’s office would not bring about substantial change. But panel members agreed that somehow the function of the prime minister’s office should be strengthened to allow the Cabinet to exert more leadership when drawing up a budget, according to the officials.

The ministry also expressed opposition to the idea of privatizing the ministry’s mint and printing bureaus, saying this would make it more difficult to maintain information control regarding printing currency.