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Policy officials of the Liberal Democratic Party and two major opposition parties agreed Monday to work toward a conclusion on whether to strip the Finance Ministry of its policy-planning powers before the fiscal 1999 budget clears the Lower House.

Judging from the current pace of the Lower House Budget Committee, the budget is likely to clear the chamber this month.

Representatives from the LDP, the Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito will continue to discuss the issue based on an agreement reached last fall concerning financial stabilization bills.

According to the agreement, financial policy planning personnel are to be separated from the powerful ministry by no later than Jan. 1, 2000. However, some technical specifics of the move — one of the biggest issues in the LDP-Liberal Party coalition’s first Diet session — remain unresolved.

During a Diet session last week DPJ leader Naoto Kan urged Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to ensure that complete separation of fiscal and financial authorities would occur as agreed, pointing out that such a separation has not been clearly stipulated in government drafts of administrative reform bills to be submitted to the Diet as early as April.

Some LDP lawmakers say the ministry should retain some of its financial policy planning functions.

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