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The Social Democratic Party, one of two non-Cabinet allies of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, questioned on Oct. 3 the wisdom of a government panel’s proposal to break up the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.During an Upper House plenary session debate, SDP policy chief Kazuo Oikawa said in his interpellation to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s policy speech that the SDP cannot understand the reason why the ministry should be broken up as part of the streamlining of government ministries and agencies. “We have not heard sufficient, convincing explanations,” Oikawa said.It was the first time the SDP has expressed skepticism in the Diet over the proposal made last month by the Administrative Reform Council, which is headed by Hashimoto. On Oct. 2, Hashimoto’s LDP formally announced in the Diet its opposition to the proposal of breaking up the ministry and privatizing two of three postal services.If the SDP joins the LDP in formally opposing the proposal, Hashimoto is likely to be thrown into a difficult situation because the question of whether to privatize the postal services — “kampo” life insurance service, postal savings and mail delivery service — is one of the top items on his reform agenda.The SDP, backed by labor unions of public servants, also suggested to Hashimoto that government employees be allowed to participate in the ongoing discussion about administrative reform. Oikawa said a panel consisting of civil servants should be created at each ministry to have them review their tasks.”Otherwise, the reform may result in cutting necessary government tasks while leaving unnecessary tasks intact,” Oikawa argued. Hashimoto simply replied that cooperation from government officials will be indispensable for the reform.

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