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A bill to reform the current bloated administrative system is indispensable to make government slimmer and more effective for the 21st century, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto told a Diet session April 20.

Hashimoto repeatedly said during a session of the Lower House Special Committee on Administrative Reform that the number of government officials will be cut by more than 10 percent under the new administration, which Hashimoto hopes to launch in January 2001.

The administrative reform bill states that the proposed transformation of 22 government ministries and agencies into a Cabinet Office and 12 ministries and agencies will start five years after enactment of the law, at the latest.

The special committee started a three-day intensive discussion of Hashimoto’s pet bill, with the heads of all government ministries and agencies present.

During the committee session, Naoto Kan, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, criticized the plan, saying reform should begin with those government bodies that need it the most, rather than transforming all ministries and agencies en masse.

Hashimoto rebutted by saying that an inconsistent method of reforming the government, one ministry at a time, would inconvenience the public. Administrative reform has been one of Hashimoto’s top policy priorities, and he spent considerable time and energy promoting the issue last year.

If the bill fails to clear the Diet by the end of the current session in June, it is considered impossible for the administrative consolidation to start in 2001.

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