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The government approved 17 bills Tuesday to slim down the administration in January 2001 along with a basic policy and plans to implement the reforms.

The bills, endorsed Tuesday by the administrative reform promotion headquarters and the Cabinet, will be submitted to the Diet today. The government hopes to have the bills passed by the end of the current session in mid-June.

Under the bills, the current 22 government ministries and agencies will become one office, 10 ministries, two agencies and a commission overseeing public safety. The reform plan emphasizes increasing the Cabinet’s functions within the government to strengthen the prime minister’s leadership.

“The government will aim to gain Diet approval of the bills as early as possible in the current session and will steadily promote measures to make a slimmer, more efficient and transparent administration based on the plans,” Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi told his Cabinet.

On the January 2000 separation of the Finance Ministry’s fiscal and financial responsibilities, the planned Treasury Ministry and Financial Agency would be responsible for overseeing the financial sector and handling financial crises, but the agency will hold main jurisdiction, according to government policy.

The disposition of the powerful Finance Ministry was the last sticking point in drawing up the reform bills, a process that took nearly two years since the governmental Administrative Reform Council, headed by Ryutaro Hashimoto, Obuchi’s predecessor, mapped out its final report in 1997.

During talks that began in early February, the Liberal Democratic Party, apparently representing the wishes of the Finance Ministry, insisted that the financial policy-planning functions remain in the hands of the ministry.

After days of haggling between the LDP, Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito, the LDP finally agreed earlier this month to accept a compromise proposed by New Komeito that the Financial Agency be established as early as July 1, 2000.

The DPJ, however, is expected to call for revisions to the bill regarding this point.

The name changes for the ministries also provoked opposition, and the issue had to be entrusted to the prime minister. For example, the Finance Ministry, or “Okura-sho,” vehemently opposed being renamed “Zaimusho,” or Treasury Ministry.

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