Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s blue-ribbon panel on administrative reform completed a series of hearings for each government ministry and agency June 25, apparently only reconfirming opposition within the bureaucracy to his goal of a slimmer government.
Hashimoto, who chairs the Administrative Reform Council, himself recently said that officials of every ministry and agency had justified their jobs during hearings and stressed the importance of maintaining their role in the future. “No ministry or agency has come out to say, ‘this part and that part of our jobs are inefficient or not necessary,'” Hashimoto said last week.
The Posts and Telecommunications Ministry turned out to be one of the toughest opponents of the plan to privatize some jobs currently carried out by the government and the idea to create quasi-governmental agencies to carry out tasks unrelated to policy planning. The ministry insisted that postal, postal savings and insurance services should be kept in the hands of the state, saying that privatizing them would create a combined deficit of 660 billion yen.
The foreign, trade and finance ministries, plus the Economic Planning Agency, which are currently involved in extending official development aid, all opposed the idea of integrating responsibility for aid into one government ministry. The Hokkaido Development Agency, which many panel members believe is no longer necessary, spoke against its own abolition in a hearing earlier this month.
But there were some exceptions. The Management and Coordination Agency showed a positive attitude toward giving away some of its responsibilities to the Prime Minister’s Office and other ministries to increase efficiency. The National Land Agency and the Construction Ministry generally supported the idea of one ministry handling public works projects.
But the Transport Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which also currently handle public works, were reluctant to give up any power.