Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on Oct. 14 left the door open to keeping all three postal services of the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry under government control, backpedaling on a partial privatization proposal by a governmental panel.”There are various arguments (about the privatization plan),” Hashimoto told a session of the Upper House Budget Committee. “And we need to hear them if they make (the final report) a much better one. “We are making preparations with a view to making the best report during a fixed period.”The Administrative Reform Council, headed by Hashimoto, is to complete a final report by the end of November after coordinating opinions within the government, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its two non-Cabinet allies, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake.Many LDP lawmakers, however, have voiced strong opposition to the report, especially the proposal to privatize “kampo” life insurance services in 2001 or thereafter while maintaining state administration of postal savings with an eye toward eventual privatization.Hashimoto said the final report will contain the results of discussions by the Administrative Reform Council. “Further study will be made, taking accommodation of users into consideration,” the prime minister said.Asked whether he intends to resign if the government decides to “keep” all three postal services, Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, “It is impossible that the prime minister would make such a conclusion and maintain the status quo — government control — and thereby force me to resign.”Koizumi is a staunch advocate for privatizing the post ministry’s mail, savings and insurance services. “The prime minister’s enthusiasm for administrative and fiscal reforms,” he said, “is real.”Said Hashimoto: “I have not prevented Cabinet members from freely expressing their opinions. Once a decision is made, however, I want them to unite.”
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