Sadatoshi Ozato, newly appointed head of the Management and Coordination Agency believes firmly that the final report of the government’s top panel on administrative reform must be completed without delay.

“The final report of the Administrative Reform Council should be worked out by November, under the deadline imposed by the prime minister,” Ozato, 67, said in an interview. “The reform is of vital importance for the government in moving toward the 21st century,” said Ozato, who is a Lower House member of the Liberal Democratic Party. The agency chief is in charge of administrative reform, the policy priority of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who heads the reform panel.

Some political observers have said that it will be difficult for the council to work out a solution for downsizing the bloated government within the next two months, because opposition to the council’s interim report is mounting from those with vested interests. Such opponents include the “zoku-giin” tribe legislators who speak for specific interests, and bureaucrats whose ministries have been targeted for streamlining in suggestions made by the council. The LDP has the most tenacious and largest number of these lawmakers.

“I believe that LDP members will cooperate with the reform,” said Ozato, reiterating that he is determined to do his utmost in his new capacity. Ozato on Sept. 22 replaced Koko Sato, who stepped down from the post amid public criticism over his 1986 bribery conviction in the Lockheed scandal. Ozato has served as labor minister and minister in charge of recovery in the wake of the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

When asked what he thinks prompted Hashimoto to pick him as Sato’s successor, Ozato cited his vitality, bold actions and ability to negotiate with others — all of which he demonstrated while serving as minister in charge of quake reconstruction. Ozato admitted that he has little experience in dealing with matters related to administrative reform, but said, “What is most important is an indomitable resolve to achieve the goal.

“We would like to hear a variety of opinions on the reform from many quarters of society. We will accept better proposals if they are suggested,” he said.

Ozato did not deliver clear answers to several questions regarding his opinions on some controversial reform issues, such as whether to privatize the three services of the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry and whether to separate the National Tax Administration Agency from the powerful Finance Ministry.

Until he was named to assume the post of agency chief, Ozato served as the head of an LDP panel to promote new bullet train lines in rural areas.

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