• Kyodo News

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An advisory panel recommended to Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday that the government conclude its 10-year campaign to consolidate municipalities nationwide at the end of next March, government officials said.

While noting that the mergers have to a certain extent strengthened the administrative underpinnings of municipalities, the Local Government System Research Council suggested that the government allow municipalities that have been unable to merge to instead help each other in some administrative work.

It also advised the government to consider enacting a new law to assist municipalities still trying to merge after the expiration next March of the current law.

The panel said that the mergers have improved the quality of some local government services, such as nursing care for elderly citizens, while the number of public servants has been reduced to save public money.

The number of municipalities will have been almost halved from 3,232 at the end of March 1999 to 1,760 as of next March 23.

The panel decided to end the campaign because many small-scale municipalities have yet to merge, while some merged entities have complained their unique local traditions and cultures have suffered.

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