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Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said Wednesday a planned third-party advisory panel to monitor the government’s administrative reform efforts will play a key role in countering anticipated objections from bureaucrats against the reform.

“We believe the advisory body will have significant gravity in promoting the administrative reform strictly in line with the basic administrative reform law,” Hashimoto said in an interview with The Japan Times.

The law that serves as the framework for what Hashimoto calls a “slimmer, efficient and transparent administration for the 21st century” was enacted Tuesday.

However, fierce protests from bureaucrats are expected to flare when Hashimoto begins announcing the details of the administrative consolidation plan. By implementing the plan, Hashimoto hopes to trim Japan’s century-old administrative system from its current 22 government ministries and agencies to one Cabinet office and 12 ministries and agencies in January 2001.

“We hope to obtain advice with wider viewpoints from the panel so that we can push the reform in the proper direction,” Hashimoto said, repeatedly expressing his determination to go through with the plan.

The advisory panel will consist of scholars, journalists, business leaders, and leaders of labor organizations, Hashimoto said. The panel, which will work out specific details of the reform measures, will be set up directly under a government panel that will include all members of the Cabinet and be headed by Hashimoto, he said. It is expected to be formed next month.

Concerning plans by the opposition camp to file a no-confidence motion against his Cabinet, the prime minister said he is confident it will be voted down.

He declined to comment on how many seats his Liberal Democratic Party hopes to obtain in the Upper House elections next month, but instead stressed the party’s hopes that all the candidates on the LDP ticket will be victorious in the elections.

If the party obtains 69 seats or more, the party will regain a majority in the chamber. Sixty-one LDP seats will be open in the elections. Half of the 252 seats in the Upper House will be contested.

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