A review of the government’s fiscal investment and loan program needs to be undertaken in its entirety, and not in bits and pieces, a new panel on the issue agreed at its first meeting Feb. 17.

The FILP, often called “zaito,” will undergo scrutiny as part of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s efforts to streamline government under mounting criticism that it has become too large and inefficient. The new unnamed study group was formed under the Fund Operation Council, an advisory body to the finance and posts and telecommunications ministers.

Keimei Kaizuka, a Chuo University law professor heading the 39-member group, stressed after the day’s meeting that it was the first time the zaito program has been debated with reform in mind. But he said there was no concrete timetable for wrapping up the panel’s discussions because of its general approach. He only said that reform steps would be implemented as soon as agreement is reached, and that some of them may be under consideration by the time the program for fiscal 1998 is drawn up.

From fiscal 1997, which begins April 1, the program — dubbed the second budget — will total 51.36 trillion yen, or nearly two-thirds of the general account budget of 77.39 trillion yen. At the meeting Feb. 17, panel members vowed to review the entire money flow, but whether reforms will be able to survive resistance from political and bureaucratic circles remains uncertain.

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