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Staff writer

The government must be able to act quickly based on real-time economic data to cope with mounting problems plaguing the nation’s economy, said Hirotaro Higuchi, chairman of the Strategic Economic Council, a special advisory panel to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

Higuchi, chairman of Asahi Breweries, also renewed his pledge to draw up a final report by the end of December, noting that markets would not wait too long. “We will do it by the end of December,” he said in an interview. “You can just take a look at what’s happening in Russia to see why we cannot take too much time.” He also noted that the government’s 16.65 trillion yen economic stimulus package, announced in April, will begin to take effect around mid-September. “We’re hoping to put forward our complete proposal while those stimulative measures are still working,” he said.

Given the pressing need to quickly revamp the economy, however, Higuchi said, the council should put forward one proposal after another upon reaching consensus, rather than waiting till the whole package is ready.

The 10-member council, which is modeled after the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, was launched last Monday. Obuchi has asked the council to draw up its proposal hopefully by the end of December, or the end of March at the latest.

Higuchi said that specific themes will be set during the next meeting slated for Sept. 10, with respective council members proposing their own ideas and those of the public gathered through the Internet. He acknowledged that he has been receiving requests for including such issues as land, energy and the financial system. He also said that the council will discuss tax cuts, which he said are crucial to revitalizing the economy and are an inevitable factor regardless of which subjects are discussed.

At the same time, Higuchi stressed the need to create a function to materialize proposals put forward by the council, which is to be dissolved upon drawing up their report. “The question is how to incorporate our proposals into concrete policies,” he said. “I am hoping to propose an idea as to how to facilitate this linkage.”

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