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Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s blue-ribbon reform panel will take up this month the highly controversial issue of privatizing the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry’s postal, postal savings and postal insurance services, a high-ranking official said July 9.

“The members of the Administrative Reform Council agreed during today’s meeting that they will hold intensive discussions on the issue sometime in July,” said Kiyoshi Mizuno, Hashimoto’s special aide in charge of administrative reform. “They said that they cannot leave the matter untouched,” Mizuno told reporters.

Whether to privatize the three services has been one of the major issues connected with administrative reform. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party supported keeping the three services within the ministry when it took an official stance last month. It opposes both privatizing the services and splitting up the ministry.

The LDP’s support came a day after the ministry stressed to the panel, headed by Hashimoto, that it is responsible for providing postal services to all people in the country, and privatization would deny easy access to people living in remote and underpopulated areas. There are strong, vocal advocates of privatization both inside and outside the LDP.

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