A long-awaited list of members of a key government panel that will discuss proposed privatization of road-related public bodies was released Friday, controversially naming the well-known nonfiction writer Naoki Inose.

Inose, a vocal critic of the state of the nation’s public bodies, is widely viewed as the last person many lawmakers in the ruling bloc wanted involved, and some observers believe his inclusion could determine the fate of supposedly reformist Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet.

The seven-member body will study the privatization of four public corporations that build and manage expressways across the country — Japan Highway Public Corp., Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp., Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority.

The decision to include Inose represents a small victory for Koizumi in his tug-of-war with the many influential Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers backed by construction companies. Inose has long criticized the corrupt but powerful ties between many ruling lawmakers and vested interests, particularly the construction industry.

“This (decision) will draw great resistance,” LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki reportedly said after learning the names of the council members.

The other six members are Takashi Imai, honorary chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren); Masatake Matsuda, chairman of East Japan Railway Co.; Hideo Nakamura, a professor at the Musashi Institute of Technology; Kazuaki Tanaka, a professor at Takushoku University; Yuko Kawamoto, a senior expert at consulting firm McKinsey & Co., Japan; and journalist Eiko Oya.

The council will hold its first meeting on Monday evening, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said.

Imai, who is also chairman of Nippon Steel Corp., is believed to have been chosen in the hope of gaining the support of opponents of privatization, as steelmakers benefit greatly from public work projects. He is widely expected to head the meeting.

Some observers believe Koizumi’s choice of Inose may be a desperate effort to make his Cabinet appear more reformist in the face of a sharp drop in public approval ratings stemming from disappointment over his failure so far to deliver promised reforms.

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