Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi needs to accelerate the speed of structural reforms if he wants to get a better grade for his handling of the economy, the leader of a major business group said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Japan National Press Club, Kakutaro Kitashiro, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai) said, “I would give Koizumi only 50 to 60 points (out of 100) for the economic measures he has implemented” since taking office some two years ago.

But he added he would give 70 to 80 points for Koizumi’s handling of national security issues and international affairs.

“Prime Minister Koizumi is heading in the right direction in his efforts to reform the nation’s economic structure,” the Doyukai chief said. “But it is taking too much time (for the reforms) to bear fruit,” and the public is only seeing the pain of the measures, which include financial reforms and the revamping of ailing industries.

To get positive results soon, Koizumi needs to focus his deregulation efforts on business areas that can easily meet consumers’ needs, such as in nursing services for children and the elderly, medical services and education, Kitashiro said.

Deregulation in such sectors could encourage people to start up new businesses and lead to the creation of more job opportunities, he added.

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