A set of reform proposals adopted by the Economic and Fiscal Policy Council drew a cold response Friday from Cabinet ministers and members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
During the day’s Cabinet meeting, several ministers demanded that they be included in discussions in finalizing the reform measures toward the end of June, government officials said.
“Economic and fiscal policy is an issue of top priority for each ministry and I would like to see a framework for minister-level discussions to adjust opinions,” Koji Omi, state minister for science and technology policy, was quoted as saying in the meeting. “Those policies are not something that an advisory panel decides on its own without consulting relevant government agencies.”
Tsutomu Takebe, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi expressed similar views, according to the officials.
The key government panel on Thursday unveiled the draft reform guidelines centering on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s reform initiatives, including an overhaul of the state budget.
Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Heizo Takenaka, who played a leading role in compiling the guidelines, downplayed disagreements in the Cabinet, saying, “I don’t think there are objections.
“Now that we have decided on the framework, we can go ahead and push on,” Takenaka told reporters, expressing confidence that he can overcome opposition from ministries and agencies before the Koizumi administration adopts the final report in late June.
The guidelines call for a reduction in the percentage of public investment to gross domestic product over the medium term and a review of the use of special tax revenues earmarked for road construction.
Strong resistance is expected, however, from LDP heavyweights.
Members of the LDP’s decision-making Executive Council also voiced dissatisfaction with the panel’s guidelines in their meeting Friday morning. “The Economic and Fiscal Policy Council should concentrate on basic discussions (to set general policy direction) and leave specific policies to the ruling parties and ministries,” Kabun Muto, former head of the LDP’s tax panel, was quoted as saying.
Yuya Niwa, former welfare minister, said, “What people are concerned about is economic stimulus measures to prevent the nation’s economy from deteriorating further.”
Other members voiced objections against finalizing the reform plan before the House of Councilors election in July, urging Koizumi to better reflect the LDP’s views.
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