Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he will reshuffle his Cabinet on Monday in line with a new policy agenda aimed at accelerating structural reforms.
“I plan to do it on the 30th,” Koizumi told reporters Friday at his official residence, adding that ministers will be selected “considering experiences I have had in taking a line of reform since I assumed the post of prime minister.”
Koizumi unveiled his new policy agenda at an afternoon meeting with three top executives of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party: Secretary General Taku Yamasaki, Policy Affairs Research Council head Taro Aso and Executive Council chief Mitsuo Horiuchi.
The trio of executives were reappointed Friday, easing the Cabinet reshuffle into its final stage of Koizumi announcing the list of new ministers.
The reshuffle, Koizumi’s first since taking office in April 2001, is expected to be minimal.
Sources in Koizumi’s coalition said he is likely to retain Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa and economic and fiscal policy chief Heizo Takenaka.
Other ministers expected to be reappointed include Toranosuke Katayama, minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications, and Chikara Sakaguchi, minister of health, labor and welfare, the sources said.
The focal point is whether Financial Services Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa will retain his post, particularly in light of his public spat with Koizumi over the injection of fresh public funds into banks. Pressure has been mounting within the ruling coalition for Koizumi to replace Yanagisawa, who opposes the further injection of public funds.
During a meeting Thursday with Koizumi, Takeshi Noda, head of coalition partner New Conservative Party, reportedly urged the prime minister to “clearly demonstrate his economic policy through the Cabinet reshuffle,” suggesting he should remove Yanagisawa to demonstrate the government’s resolve on the bad-loan issue.
Koizumi’s new policy agenda is centered on measures to revitalize Japan’s stagnant economy, accelerate administrative and fiscal reform, and move to promote peace and stability in Northeast Asia.
His new Cabinet will work closely with the Bank of Japan to combat the nation’s ongoing deflation, according to the agenda.
It will also try to end the bad-loan problem within fiscal 2004 by completing banks’ final disposal of problem loans.
Koizumi’s new Cabinet will try to speed up deregulation to promote administrative and fiscal reforms. The agenda says the privatization of road-related public corporations and postal services, among other things, will be a top priority.
On foreign policy, it says the new Cabinet will be committed to normalization talks with North Korea, set to begin next month.
Koizumi is expected to boost the number of House of Councilors members in the next Cabinet to meet a request by LDP heavyweights to place more Upper House members from the party in attractive posts.
Currently, Katayama is the only Upper House member from the LDP caucus with a Cabinet portfolio.
Yoshitada Konoike, chief negotiator of parliamentary proceedings, is reportedly being considered as a possible second minister from the Upper House.
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