Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto restated his intention Jan. 21 to work out measures to reduce the nation’s massive fiscal deficit, saying that he “will never retreat” on this issue despite the obstacles he expects to encounter on the road to successful reform.Hashimoto made the remark at the first meeting of the Conference on Fiscal Structural Reform, which was formally set up earlier this month to restore the nation’s fiscal health. It is estimated that the total combined cumulative deficit of the central and local governments will reach 442 trillion yen by the end of March.Hashimoto asked panel members to finalize the key suggestions for a law to balance the nation’s fiscal books by June so the government is able to incorporate proposals based on those suggestions when it draws up budgetary requests for fiscal 1998 in the summer. In overhauling the nation’s fiscal system, Hashimoto stressed that no sanctuary should be overlooked, saying the review should include expenditures for social security, public works, science, education and defense spending.The council consists of six Cabinet ministers, including Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, and senior officials of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its two smaller allies — the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake. Former prime ministers Yasuhiro Nakasone, Noboru Takeshita, Kiichi Miyazawa and Tomiichi Murayama, as well as a number of former finance ministers, also sit on the council. Hashimoto himself heads the panel.

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