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A new government task force on administrative reform held its first meeting Tuesday to determine the responsibilities of the 13 government bodies planned under a realigned administrative system.

The panel, which consists of all Cabinet members and is headed by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, will prepare bills to create a Cabinet Office and 12 ministries and agencies to replace the current 22.

Hashimoto hopes to launch the new system by January 2001 and plans to submit relevant bills to the Diet in April 1999, during its next regular session. The panel will also detail a plan to create new quasigovernmental organizations, modeled after the executive agency system in Britain, to transfer divisions not related to policymaking from the central government. The measure is designed to streamline the bloated administration.

Some experts have raised concerns that the bureaucrats might take the teeth out of the reform efforts, which are designed to limit the size and power of the bureaucracy.

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