Newly appointed Financial Services Minister Tatsuya Ito plans to continue pushing banking-sector reforms, the biggest task he worked on as a deputy to his hardline predecessor, Heizo Takenaka.

“The biggest purpose of the ‘Takenaka vision’ is to resolve the bad-loan problem” in the banking sector, Ito said.

“I will take over this goal and pursue financial reforms.”

Takenaka has urged major banks to halve their massive nonperforming loans by the end of March to revitalize the economy.

Ito, a 43-year-old House of Representative lawmaker, became a Cabinet member Monday for the first time, and at a relatively young age. He served as senior vice minister for financial services for two years under Takenaka.

Asked if he had any opinions that differ from Takenaka’s, Ito said: “Not at all. I have worked with him with the same opinions and feelings.”

He said the banking sector needs more competition so it can increase its services and improve its quality.

“I expect banks to step up risk management and create a stable and strong financial system by making further management reforms.”

Ito pledged to make efforts to facilitate smooth financing for regional economies and small companies, and added that the government will end the full guarantee on bank deposits next April as scheduled.

Ito entered the political arena in 1993 after graduate studies at California State University, and a stint on the policy staff of the mayor of Sacramento and a U.S. congressman. He studied at Matsushita Institute of Government and Management.

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