All new thermal power development should be made subject to competitive bidding starting in fiscal 1999, a government advisory panel said in an interim report released Tuesday.

The Electricity Utility Industry Council, an advisory body to the minister for international trade and industry, also called for setting up a watchdog organization to ensure transparency and fair competition in bidding. The proposals were made in line with the government’s pledge to reduce the nation’s electricity costs to an internationally competitive level by 2001. Electricity cost reduction is one of the pillars in the ongoing economic structural reform initiated by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

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