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The transport ministry will demand the resignation of all board members of companies affiliated with four public expressway corporations who assumed their posts after retiring from the public firms, transport minister Chikage Ogi said Thursday.

They all should step down before the corporations hold shareholders’ meetings later this year, Ogi told a news conference.

The move is part of ongoing efforts to privatize all four of the heavily indebted expressway corporations, which are funded and supported by the government in accordance with proposals submitted to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi by a key government panel in December.

They are Japan Highway Public Corp., Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp., Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority.

Ogi also said the transport ministry will urge firms affiliated with the corporations to refrain from making such appointments in the future.

“(We’re) determined to wipe away public criticism against such ‘amakudari’ appointments,” she said, using the term meaning “descent from heaven” for the practice of appointing retired public officials to executive posts at corporations they once oversaw.

The four expressway firms have a total of 121 affiliated companies, 97 of which have former officials of the expressway corporations as their presidents.

The government is now preparing legislation to privatize the public expressway corporations that will be submitted to the Diet sometime after next January.

Ogi recently conveyed to Koizumi rough estimates of her ministry’s plans to drastically cut the costs of ongoing expressway construction through reducing the number of traffic lanes, reshaping interchanges and introducing cellular phone systems to replace costly emergency telephones currently posted on the expressways.

In a related move, the four highway firms announced they have appointed senior executives from the private sector to their boards to proceed with privatization efforts.

Effective March 1, Japan Highway Public Corp. appointed Akira Hirai, 56, former associate director of Tokyo Electric Power Co., to promote overall information on privatization.

It is also seeking a part-time adviser from the private sector to serve as overall privatization supervisor.

Effective April 1, Jiro Kusakabe, 57, president of Tokyu Hands Inc., and Koichi Suzuki, 56, president of Internet Initiative Japan, will become part-time advisers to Metropolitan Expressway. Toru Higaki, 42, a chief researcher of Mitsubishi Research Institute Inc., will become a senior counselor.

Ichiro Chibata, 76, a special consultant to pharmaceutical firm Tanabe Seiyaku Co., will be a part-time adviser to Hanshin Expressway, and Tamiyoshi Horikiri, 71, former vice chairman of Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co., will serve as part-time adviser to Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority.

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