Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Thursday backpedaled on his recent pledge to bar retired bureaucrats from heading semigovernmental special companies.

The custom is known as “amakudari,” or descent from heaven.

Koizumi told reporters Thursday evening that in some cases, former vice ministers may be better choices than those from the private sector.

“I won’t exclude all (former bureaucrats),” in appointing heads of semigovernmental firms, he said.

On Monday, Koizumi told a House of Councilors session that vice administrative ministers would no longer be allowed to obtain these posts.

“I have to fix the problem as much as possible,” Koizumi told the Upper House Audit Committee.

According to media reports, however, Masahiko Kurono, former vice transport minister, will be appointed president of Narita International Airport Corp.

The newly privatized body will be launched in April to replace New Tokyo International Airport Authority.

The entity operates Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda tacitly confirmed the media reports of the appointment. “In some cases, people from bureaucratic organizations are better because they are well-versed in that area,” Fukuda told a regular news conference earlier in the day.

The amakudari custom has long been a focus of public criticism. It is regarded as a symbol of cozy, if not corrupt, ties between government officials and the industries that fall under their administrative jurisdiction.

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