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Chopping Up Pork Projects In Japan

Fresh from his reelection as ruling Liberal Democratic Party chief, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is flexing his political muscle. Target No. 1 is Haruho Fujii, the reform-resisting president of Japan Highway Public Corp. Koizumi wants to privatize the money-gushing state-owned highway corporation. On Oct. 6, his Transportation Minister, Nobuteru Ishihara, fired Fujii. It was a shrewd move by Koizumi. Japanese commuters endure some of the highest highway tolls in the world, so few will shed tears for Fujii, a career bureaucrat. And severing state ties with the entity will bring to an end wasteful pork-barrel projects that have left government finances in a mess. The gambit also enhances Koizumi's reformist credentials going into an expected general election set for November. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady

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