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    Solving political problems in Fantasy Land

    Posted by Sean at 01:03, May 30th, 2005

    How’s that Yasukuni Shrine situation? (I really need to create a sub-category for that….) Well, let’s see. The chief of the LDP’s Diet committee gives us this solution:

    On 29 May, the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party issued another in a series of statements calling for the separate enshrinement of class-A war criminals at the Yasukuni Shrine, in response to the controversy over Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi’s pilgrimages to the shrine.

    Hidenao Nakagawa, head of the LDP’s Diet committee, stated on Fuji Television that he is of the opinion that “the administrators of the shrine should meet with the families [of those enshrined], and voluntarily allow for separate enshrinements. Then, China will agree to Japan’s assumption of permanent membership to the UN Security Council.”

    Yes, I’m sure it’ll go just like that. The PRC is not, after all, worried about anything other than Japan’s attitude toward its wartime conduct, such as–and I’m just kinda riffing here–the entire balance of power in East Asia.

    The word I’ve rendered “voluntarily” there is 自発的 (jihatsuteki: “self-” + “emergence” + [adjectival/genitive ending]). It also often means something closer to “spontaneously,” which would perhaps give a better feel for the complete lack of precedent for such a move as Nakagawa is recommending.

    Nakagawa isn’t the only one issuing unfathomables on this issue. The Yomiuri English edition corrals many of the latest soundbites from various government types, including this “huh?” moment from a Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare official:

    Masahiro Morioka, parliamentary secretary of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry criticized the Chinese government for demanding Koizumi stop visiting the shrine. “Class-A war criminals are treated as bad people because of fear of China,” Morioka said. “War criminals were categorized as Class-A, Class-B and Class-C at the Tokyo Tribunal of War Criminals. They were categorized by a one-sided tribunal led by the Occupation forces at which crimes against peace and humanity were created.” [It’s enough to make you wonder whether this guy might actually be affiliated with the shrine itself.–SRK]

    “A war is part of politics, and it is in line with an international law. The Diet unanimously agreed to pay pensions to the families of Class-A war criminals who have died. They’re not seen as criminals in the country,” he said.

    “Saying it’s bad to enshrine Class-A criminals at Yasukuni Shrine is to turn a blind eye to future troubles,” he added.

    It’s certainly true that Japan didn’t regard many convicted war criminals as actual criminals. It released most (all?) of those who weren’t executed; many promptly reentered public service. One, Nobusuke Kishi, became Prime Minister–though it’s important to remember that he wasn’t one of those tried and convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. BTW, you can read at that last link to get a sense of whether inventive approaches to crime began with the Tribunal and whether it’s future troubles to which someone’s turning a blind eye.

    As you might imagine, others in the government have reacted along predictable lines–namely, “Sh*t! I would just like to distance myself from that particular comment”:

    Referring to Morioka’s remarks, Hosoda said later in the day: “Such remarks should never be made by a member of the government. There were some errors in the judgments, but it’s no use to comment on it. Japan accepted [the tribunal’s decision].”

    Koizumi told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office, “It’s meaningless to take note of his remarks. It’s got nothing to do with my visits [to Yasukuni Shrine].”

    Japan paid the reparations that were demanded of it; the government is absolutely right to maintain that it no longer owes official apologies and official acts of redress. But diplomacy is about establishing, if not trust, at least fellow-feeling. It’s not hard to see why China, the Koreas, and Taiwan, suspect there are key members of the Japanese government with no sense of the enormity of their forebears’ conduct.

    Added at 15:00: Japundit links to a tidbit about this Kyodo poll. It was a telephone poll (heh-heh), so you have to take it FWIW. A few other interesting notes:

    Asked about what the Japanese government has done to work toward improvement of Japan-PRC relations, 50.8% of respondents answered, “I don’t think it’s sufficient,” surpassing by a wide margin the 11.5% who answered, “I think it’s sufficient.”

    Regarding the bill to privatize Japan Post, over which debate has begun in the Diet, 47.4% supported it, and 33.3% opposed it. However, regarding explanations from the Prime Minister of why the privatization plan was necessary, the proportion saying, “I don’t think they’re sufficient,” reached 64.1%; by contrast, the percent responding, “I think they’re sufficient,” was 8.2%, so there are still many who feel that not enough explanation has been offered.

    The rate of support for the cabinet has risen 1.5 points since Kyodo’s April survey to 48.4%, with the percent not supporting the cabinet dropping 1.9 points to 36.4%. Among reasons given for support of the cabinet, the most frequent was “There are no other appropriate people [available]” at 48.7%. The most frequent reason given for withholding support was “Nothing can be expected of its economic policies” at 22.5%.

    There was no obvious direct link to Kyodo’s report of the poll, so it’s hard to tell how much the push for UNSC permanent membership has affected people’s attitudes toward China policy.


    審議空転

    Posted by Sean at 23:01, May 24th, 2005

    If you’re wondering what Prime Minister Koizumi meant by that comment about Japan’s opposition parties yesterday, here‘s an example:

    Debate remained stalled in the Diet on 24 May, as the Democratic (DPJ) and Social Democratic (SDP) Parties, both of which opposed the establishment of a special lower house committee on Japan Post reform, failed to consent to the discussion of any bills. The ruling parties plan to begin debate on the Japan Post privatization bill in the lower house plenary session on 26 May whether the opposition parties agree or not. Ruling and opposition parties will open talks between the chairmen of their Diet committees, but there is little hope that they will find a way out of the impasse.

    Koizumi and other higher-ups in the LDP are, of course, taking the opportunity to warn the opposition that the citizenry will not look kindly on this kind of stonewalling. Katsuya Okada of the DPJ has shot back that voters will understand the party’s motivations because the bill does not provide a premise for adequate debate. I would say “here we go again,” but that would imply that we’d had a respite from this at some point.


    Self-reliance

    Posted by Sean at 12:10, May 18th, 2005

    A North Korean ship that runs between Niigata and the DPRK–I think as a combination of ferry and cargo ship–has put in at Niigata for the first time in a while (Japanese, English):

    The protesters included members of a group supporting families of Japanese abducted by North Korea, who shouted, “Give us our families back.”

    It was the first time that the vessel entered a port in Japan since Dec. 1 last year. The entry followed the March enactment of the revised oil spillage compensation security law, which bans entry of ships without expensive shipowners liability insurance.

    Initially the Man Gyong Bong had intended to enter the port in April, but the trip was delayed because of the revision to the law.

    Later, however, insurance was taken out and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport issued the certificate the ship needed to enter the port.

    Not everyone was sad to see the ship:

    Officials from the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, however, welcomed the arrival of the vessel.

    “We have been looking forward to reuniting with compatriots from our homeland,” a member of the association said.

    For those who haven’t had the pleasure, the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (在日朝鮮総連合会: Zainichi-Chousen-Sourengou-kai) does the DPRK’s gladhanding here. Technically, Japan doesn’t have diplomatic relations with North Korea, but there’s still trade. There’s also the remittance of funds back home by DPRK nationals, though the nationalizing of Ashikaga Bank a few years ago meant, if I recall correctly, the discontinuation of the only direct banking relationship between the two countries.

    Dean has a link to a post that R.J. Rummel just put up about North Korea, which ends this way:

    So far, what are the solutions offered: Cozy up to Kim, provide food and material aid, meet with his henchmen one-to-one, then maybe he’ll compromise on his development of nukes. Yes, but tell me, how does this help the poor North Koreans suffering this enslavement, and that is what it is, pure and simple slavery under the worst of masters.

    I think one of the reasons that the DPRK’s internal horrors get so little play (considering their extent) is that they’re nearly incomprehensible. In Japan, we fairly often see video from North Korean news–usually, of course, when some Japan-DPRK diplomatic tangle is mentioned. Given the revelations about the abductions of Japanese citizens, the fact that the DPRK tends to fire its test missiles in our direction, and the occasional encounter between ships in the Sea of Japan (the East Sea to Koreans), there are frequent tangles. The first-person stories of Japanese women, often widows of North Korean men, who have escaped and return here, have immediacy and are reported in human-interest features. But those stories come one-by-one; they don’t really bring home the scale of the DPRK’s malefaction and economic incompetence.

    How incompetent? I don’t know who wrote this Wikipedia entry, but it appears to be accurate for the most part. One section that I wonder about:

    During the early 1970s, North Korea attempted a large-scale modernization program through the importation of Western technology, principally in the heavy industrial sectors of the economy. North Korea found itself unable to finance its debt, because demand for its exports shrank steadily after the oil crisis of the 1970s, until it became the first communist country to default on its loans from free market countries.

    That ain’t exactly the way I heard it. My understanding has always been that the DPRK waited until Western governments and corporations had coughed up the technology they were to provide to help the country develop–then simply nationalized it and refused to go forward with the planned joint ventures. Or, naturally, to pay off the loans involved. By now, if I recall correctly, the DPRK’s yearly volume of foreign trade is considerably lower than the ROK’s weekly volume. In fact, that’s the stat I learned some time soon after I arrived in Japan. The economy shrank so quickly during the 90’s famines that it more or less isn’t possible for it to contract further, so who knows what the figure is now?

    Tokyo and Pyongyang are only 800 miles apart. That’s about the distance between Philadelphia and St. Louis. It’s also closer than Sapporo and Fukuoka, the two most far-flung super-sized cities on the Japanese mainland, are from each other. I’ve often wondered just what the psychological impact will be when the country finally cracks and Western aid workers, investors, and journalists get in and start documenting what they find. A Treblinka with the land area of Mississippi. I doubt we’ll be able to wrap our heads around it even then.


    Koizumi’s latest on the Yasukuni Shrine and Japan Post

    Posted by Sean at 01:00, May 16th, 2005

    Prime Minister Koizumi delivered a few soundbites at a special meeting of the Lower House budgetary committee this morning. (I think he said these things this morning; the meeting is on NHK now, and I think it’s a simulcast.)

    About Chinese and Korean criticism of visits by Japanese officials to the Yasukuni Shrine, he said, “Any nation will feel the desire to pay respects to its war dead. Other nations should not be interfering based on whether they believe our ways of doing so are desirable.”

    Also, regarding the enshrinement of Class A war criminals at the shrine, Koizumi indicated that his view is that there is no problem because “‘one abhores the offense; one does not abhore the person’ are the words of China’s own Confucius.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard him trot out that one before. It’ll be interesting to hear the PRC’s reaction.

    Other remarks revolved around the proposal to privatize Japan Post. Koizumi stressed that “if the bill is rejected, it is impossible to know what will happen.” Regarding who would be held politically responsible if the bill were shot down, he remarked, “Is there any reason that (the cabinet) should resign en bloc? We will fulfill our responsibilities by seeing the bill through to approval; we have no expectation of its rejection.”

    So that’s that, for now. One reason questions about the privatization bill may carry something of a sting right now is that Koizumi has been criticized for giving the heave to two high-ranking bureaucrats who oppose it:

    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s decision to remove two top bureaucrats who are vocal opponents of his postal services privatization plan has met with criticism from within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Friday, with party members accusing Koizumi of acting like a tyrant.

    Koizumi, according to the sources, instructed Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Taro Aso to remove Hiroshi Matsui, the ministry’s vice minister for policy coordination, and Hideo Shimizu, director of the postal services policy planning bureau.

    Another source revealed an incident in winter that foreshadowed the two officials’ removal.

    “Mr. Matsui, Mr. Shimizu, I’m counting on you both,” Koizumi told the two men, who were summoned to the Prime Minister’s Office on Feb. 18. The prime minister’s exhortation, while sounding like a request for cooperation, was actually a warning that meant “Don’t dare stand in my way, you guys,” according to an interpretation by a government source.

    One LDP member, a former official in the erstwhile Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, which is now part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, reacted strongly: “This is a reign of terror. Does anybody have the right to throw people out because they weren’t 100 percent behind their master?”

    Well, it’s true that one doesn’t want heads of state in democratic countries ramming through their pet little proposals against the will of the people. But let’s not forget that these two are bureaucrats–that is, appointees, and not elected officials. Enforcing accountability on bureaucrats in the various federal ministries and their entourage of semi-public corporations has been one of the biggest problems for reform-minded politicians, let alone their long-suffering constituents.

    Whether and how to privatize Japan Post have been debated up, down, around, and through by this point. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that, now that a proposal has gelled, two administrators who are staunchly against it should be told that there’s no role for them in implementing it. I understand the questions about morale, but I don’t think it’s possible to take control of a set of wide-ranging and lucrative services away from an organization without making it feel somewhat unloved.

    By the way, don’t feel too sorry for the two demoted men:

    Matsui is expected to remain a vice ministerial-level official, with his former post allocated to Kozo Takahara, vice minister for policy coordination and director of the international affairs department.

    Meanwhile, Shimizu will be demoted to director general for policy planning in charge of communications. Yasuo Suzuki, director general for policy planning, will take over the post.

    This will not help either’s career, of course, but given the power of bureaucrats in Japan–still, for all the noises about reform–both of them have decades of connections and influence to capitalize on.


    基地の再編成

    Posted by Sean at 01:29, May 14th, 2005

    The Pentagon made some of its recommendations for the restructuring of military installations yesterday:

    The Pentagon on Friday recommended closing 33 major domestic U.S. military bases and restructuring 29 others, dealing a hard economic blow to many communities across the country.

    New England was the hardest hit region and the South was the biggest gainer. States among the biggest losers were Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey and South Dakota. Winners included Texas, Maryland and Georgia, although the Atlanta area was hit hard.

    The bases are vital economic engines in many communities, which mounted frantic lobbying efforts to save their local bases, and will now try to convince the commission that the Pentagon erred and to spare ones scheduled to close.

    This was the expected reaction, of course; and understandable it is, too. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to restructure without reallocating resources (though Japanese companies and government bodies give it the old college try).

    Speaking of Japan–do I ever not?–its part in the restructuring is taking shape, also:

    Japan and the United States have agreed to step up efforts on joint operations and cooperation in the event of a military emergency in Japan. This would include allowing some Japanese facilities, such as harbors and airports, to be used by the U.S. military.

    In doing so, Tokyo hopes to strike a deal with Washington to reduce U.S. bases here, sources said.

    The plan is part of continuing discussions on the global transformation of the U.S. military.

    Japanese and U.S. officials are discussing how to divide the roles and duties of the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces.

    Military emergencies would include a flare-up between China and Taiwan.

    In the event of such a crisis, the government believes that allowing U.S. forces to use civilian facilities would ensure closer mutual cooperation, the sources said.

    Under this scenario, Tokyo would offer the use of certain airports and harbors to U.S. forces.

    With this offer, Tokyo hopes the Pentagon will become more receptive to eliminating certain U.S. facilities in Japan.

    In discussions on cutting the U.S. base presence, Japanese officials have asked that those not in active use be returned to Japan. However, U.S. officials insist the facilities are needed in a military emergency.

    Notice, toward the bottom of the article, an indication that one of the problems with this agreement has been the failure of the federal government to coordinate effectively with local governments here in Japan. That sort of thing happens very frequently–it’s also been a hilarious coda to the fanfare surrounding the Kyoto Protocols. I point this out not to rag on Japan–every social system of 125 million people is going to have its weak points. It’s just that people frequently seem to have the impression that Japanese conformism and the post-War success of Japan, Inc., mean that the government functions like one gigantic well-oiled machine. But you get dissent in the ranks and stonewalling by locals here, too.



    On a related note, the joint missile defense system is progressing, but, then, I think it only requires the cooperation of the Defense Agency.


    California, here we come!

    Posted by Sean at 05:39, May 2nd, 2005

    While my attention has been diverted elsewhere, the Yomiuri has been following the Japan Post privatization proposal through its most recent travails (part 1, part 2, part 3). I’m remiss in not having drawn your attention to it earlier, because it’s a very good, accessible summary of where things are at this point. Predictable problems have been cropping up, since the bills have been submitted but have yet to go through the Diet.

    Part 2 in the series is the one that has the most concrete information about what’s being haggled over. Interestingly, if not exactly surprisingly given the political delicacy of the issue, Heizo Takenaka, who was hand-picked by PM Koizumi to be the minister in charge of orchestrating the Japan Post privatization, has dropped his usual habit of bluntness and bombthrowing and is taking a more oblique line.

    One contentious issue is how long the semi-governmental holding company will retain its shares in the four new companies that actually render services (package handling, savings, insurance, and window services). From Koizumi’s perspective, the idea is that the holding company is supposed to sell all its shares by 2017. The possibility that has now been raised is that it can buy them back the next year:

    LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Kaoru Yosano also said Monday, “The important thing is that the holding company will be a shareholder in 2017 and in 2018 as well.”

    Once the holding company sells all its shares in the postal savings and insurance companies, they will be considered as private entities, with no restrictions on their operations. If the sale is completed during the early years of the privatization process–which begins in 2007–the firms could take up new profitable businesses, such as lending.

    However, such a compromise may have a detrimental impact on existing private operators.

    Yes, they might actually have to compete for customers, and, sakes alive, we would NOT WANT THAT.

    Personally, I’m kind of wondering what reason a holding company that was incorporated for the express purpose of tiding the four new service companies over during the transition would have for existing after the transition was completed. You can tell I’m not a bureaucrat.

    Another, related problem (if you think in terms of free markets) is this:

    Also, the government and the LDP have been divided over a fund to be managed by the holding company with the aim of ensuring the uniform provision of postal savings and life insurance services nationwide.

    As the relevant bill submitted to the Diet stipulates the holding company can establish a fund of up to 1 trillion yen, the amount of the fund is unchanged from the initial government plan. But the government and the LDP agreed that the company could keep up to 2 trillion yen in the fund.

    The fund is intended to allow unprofitable post offices to continue providing financial services. The LDP’s request to increase its size is aimed at protecting the network of post offices by ensuring the universal service obligation applies not only to mail delivery, but also to banking.

    So now we’re going to pony up for banking services in every municipality from Chiyoda Ward to darkest Hokkaido, and we’re going to insulate the providers from feeling the heat for their bad investment decisions. I doubt it’s meant that way, of course; the idea is probably just to help far-flung outlets cover operations costs. But we’re talking about a large pile of government-guaranteed money here. You can bet the urn full of grandma’s ashes that it won’t take long for savvy operators to figure out how to make bad debt and money-pit investments look like the necessary ineffiencies of being the only post office at the top of an underpopulated mountain.

    Takenaka, as noted above, is waving all this away:

    Heizo Takenaka, the minister responsible for postal privatization, reportedly said he had no intention of revising the bill, and the issue of the fund would be a business decision to be made in the future.

    The issue could determine the basic scheme of privatization. Takenaka’s remark that the issue will be a business decision does not seem to reflect his real intention. Instead, he has just postponed dealing with the issue.

    Well, we all know how well it goes when you “privatize” a critical service by creating a soup of government guarantees and nebulous divisions of accountability and just kind of figure that logistics aren’t going to interfere, don’t we?


    DPRK tests short-range missile

    Posted by Sean at 21:12, May 1st, 2005

    This Nikkei headline about the DPRK’s missile test yesterday gives some indication of why English translations of Japanese always seem to double the length of the passage in question:

    北朝鮮ミサイル実験、日中韓ロと警告へ・米首席補佐官

    That 日中韓ロ part in the middle stands for “Japan, China, the ROK, and Russia.” The whole thing literally reads, “US Chief of Staff with Japan, PRC, ROK, Russia toward warning on DPRK missile test.” Naturalized, it might go, “US to join Japan, PRC, ROK, and Russia in warning DPRK about missile tests, says Chief of Staff.”

    Anyway, I think yesterday’s missile test has been pretty well publicized, and only some fish suffered for it directly. Atsushi thinks the motivation was transferred pain over soccer. He’s only half joking.


    LDP dissent over Japan Post reform continues

    Posted by Sean at 00:14, April 15th, 2005

    You know how the Japan Post privatization proposal was presented to the LDP last week? It’s still, not unpredictably, stuck there:

    A group of 101 Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers met Wednesday to reiterate their opposition to the government’s postal privatization plan and ruled out any compromise on the issue.
    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi meanwhile renewed his pledge not to change the postal reform framework adopted by his Cabinet earlier this month.

    The standoff between Koizumi and his opponents in the LDP, of which he is president, is making it increasingly difficult for the government to meet its goal of submitting its postal privatization bills to the Diet by the end of the month.

    At Wednesday’s meeting, organized and chaired by former House of Representatives Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki, the lawmakers adopted a resolution opposing the government’s plan and released their own outline to reform Japan Post while keeping it a semigovernmental corporation.

    Someday when my stomach is less on edge, we’ll talk about Japanese semi-governmental corporations in all their resource-hoovering glory. Suffice it to say that, while “semi-governmental” sounds like a nice, friendly compromise, in execution it ends up increasing the number of people who have access to the goodies and decreasing the number of people who feel compelled to husband them. The Sankei did report that not everyone who went to Watanuki’s “study session” last week symptathized with his anti-privatization position (one is cited as saying that because he’d received his invitation from the leaders of his faction, he felt unable to refuse it). But there were 96 Diet attendees there, and 101 who joined him in his resolution this week, so maybe he was pretty persuasive.

    In any case, Prime Minister Koizumi has been adamant that the proposal not be doctored before officially becoming a Diet bill. The deadline he set was the end of April, so there’s still plenty of time for fun.


    Lingering questions about Japan Post

    Posted by Sean at 08:44, April 7th, 2005

    The editorial in this morning’s Nikkei was about Japan Post reform and addresses several sticking points:

    Prior [to the release of the plan] the LDP compiled a document called “Modes of Thinking for Japan Post Reform.” In it, there were several problems with the government’s proposal indicated, including (1) the corporation that will be financed by the government will be state-owned and privately-managed, and so there are fears that its projects will fall prey to corruption, (2) the division of Japan Post into four companies simply increases the number of positions available for 天下り (amakudari: lit., “descent from the heavens”), (3) it has not been proven that the four new companies (posts, savings accounts, insurance, and counter services) will really be independent.

    Amakudari is similar to what we’d call a revolving door: the system in which high government officials retire to semi-public management or “consulting” jobs in which they can use their accumulated connections and influence to manage resources. Civil servants make less than they could with equivalent credentials in the private sector because the assumption that they’ll retire in their mid-50s and take more-lucrative jobs related to their fields. Government officials have complained about attempts to reform the system because–and it’s hard not to sympathize with them to some degree–they’ve all gone through their entire careers with the understanding that things would work this way. On the other hand, the number of redundant positions boggles the imagination, and attempts at reform are seen as suspect by the Japanese people.


    Japan Post proposal nearly ready–we mean it

    Posted by Sean at 03:58, April 4th, 2005

    Those planning the privatization of Japan Post talked this weekend about selling off in stages the remaining government-held stake in the two new firms that will handle postal savings and life insurance. Some were still balking at the idea of offloading the entire government stake in ten years, but an agreement appears to have been reached: all government shares are to be sold by the end of March 2017. The government will unveil its basic proposal tomorrow after presenting it to the leaders of the LDP and Shin-Komeito.

    BTW, people occasionally ask me how much money we’re talking about here. The answer: a WHOLE LOT OF MONEY. There are about ¥230 trillion (US $1.9 trillion) in postal savings accounts. That’s between one-third and one-half of the personal savings in Japan, and the “bankers” that manage it are in a special department of the Ministry of Finance. Much of it has been invested in government bonds that no one else is buying, much of the remainder serves as a sort of slush fund for favored government projects, and the rest is invested elsewhere. This Q&A-style piece from The Japan Times last fall gives some of the figures and major problems (consider that I haven’t discussed the insurance money). I’m in favor of privatization, but–like bank, pension, health care, and social insurance reforms–it’s going to be painful.


    Added at 19:20: PM Koizumi has announced his joy over the completion of the proposal. Something I’ve kept forgetting to mention, though it’s at the bottom of most articles about the issue: if the new computer systems aren’t ready in time, the beginning of the switchover will be delayed by up to six months.



    Added on 5 April: The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, naturally, was not looking forward to the loss of control–its objections are not surprising. The somewhat thornier issues involve how to ensure that mail delivery continues to isolated communities, and they’ve been around for months. There are still questions about the plan that raise California-energy-fiasco-type worries. From the Yomiuri:


    After the two units are fully privatized, the holding company will be allowed to buy back some of the shares it sells. In addition, the outline includes a provision that allows the four postal entities to hold shares in each other after the privatization process ends in 2017.



    The outline also stipulates the creation of a 1 trillion yen fund to cover the privatized entities’ potential losses in providing postal savings and life insurance services in less populated areas as part of their universal service obligations.





    So they’re being privatized but only partially deregulated. From what I can tell, the opening is also made for a version of 持ち合い (mochiai: “mutual-shareholding“), a Japanese business practice that may, as that page states, “[create] a sense of shared responsibilities and obligations of each other’s business success” but also makes you wonder what the point of having four separate companies would be.