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Monday, Oct 6, 2014

Asia

LDP begins streamlining Japanese govt's spending

The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN | Monday, Oct 6, 2014

House of Representatives member Taro Kono has been appointed chairman of the LDP reform headquarters.

JAPAN - The Liberal Democratic Party's Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters is upbeat as the government expects it will play a key role in regaining fiscal soundness by fiscal 2020.

The government expects the LDP reform headquarters to make progress in examining wasteful budget spending and capping government spending, and will deter opposition from lawmakers with vested interests in specific fields.

Leading up to the year-end, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will decide whether to implement another consumption tax hike, the LDP aims to show its determination to streamline the government budget.

The LDP reform headquarters held a meeting Thursday at the party headquarters building. A study panel was set up to examine the government's midterm fiscal plan and debates were launched on budget reforms.

In the latest reshuffle of key posts in the party, House of Representatives member Taro Kono became the chairman of the reform headquarters.

In 2008, Kono established a party project team to eliminate wasteful spending with the support of fellow members. So he is seen as the LDP's greatest proponent of administrative reforms.

Junior and mid-ranking LDP members who have tackled wasteful budget spending, such as lower house members Masahiko Shibayama and Keisuke Suzuki, have joined the reform headquarters.

After the Thursday's meeting, Kono told reporters: "We'll consider how to minimise an increase in governmental spending. In the end, the entire party should act to achieve that goal."

The reform headquarters has begun discussions on such issues as reducing social welfare spending, including budgets for public livelihood assistance and medical care, to minimise the increase in the overall government budget.

Regarding a draft of the fiscal 2015 government budget, the reform headquarters will closely examine whether ministries and agencies have made requests which can be deemed wasteful.

The reform headquarters will also consider streamlining the duties and divisions of the Cabinet Office and Cabinet Secretariat, which have ballooned.

On Sept. 25, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga met with Kono at the Prime Minister's Office and encouraged him with, "I want you to do your best."

The government expects a positive response from Kono and his team, as demands from lawmakers with vested interests mainly in the field of social welfare will likely increase, particularly with the next consumption tax hike.

There has also been strong pressure to increase public works projects by linking them to the government's pillar of revitalizing local economies.

A government source said, "We hope [the LDP reform headquarters] will deter moves of such lawmakers with vested interests as a separate team from the government."

Kono said he would consult with Tomomi Inada, chairwoman of the LDP's Policy Research Council, so that the entire LDP can tackle the task.

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