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    Big plans for Japan Post

    Plans for the privatization of Japan Post are moving right along–and in predictable directions. Heizo Takenaka announced some of his team’s new proposals last week; the Yomiuri has an English version:

    It also proposed requiring the companies that will manage postal savings and life insurance services to entrust their business to the network management company for a 10-year transition period from April 2007 to guarantee universal service.

    The government plans to restrict the new status to employees of the network management company and another company that will provide delivery services, including that for delivery of certified mail and court documents.

    Takenaka did not say whether the new status would be quasi-government employee status, which would ensure employees are subject to the same anticorruption rules as government employees. [I feel better already.–SRK]

    He said the government would consider a system to continue universal service, as a contribution to regional communities, of postal savings and life insurance after full privatization in 2017.

    In addition, the government would stipulate that there should be more than one post office in each municipality. It will pledge under the postal privatization bills to secure residents’ convenience and consider providing services in underpopulated areas.

    Mail pickup and delivery is a public service, so I can see why maintaining universal access is a theoretical worry. Practically speaking, though, is there any area to which private courier or freight services refuse to deliver?

    What the committee appears to be talking about is not just a one-line condition that the new corporation that handles the mails not restrict delivery by location. That bit about at least two post offices in every municipality, for example, is nice but arbitrary. If you’re familiar with rural areas, you can imagine some of the municipalities we may be talking about. Recall also that Japan is essentially one long volcanic range poked above the Pacific; there are twisty, hard-to-traverse mountain and ravine roads all over. The Kanto (Tokyo-Yokohama-Kawasaki) and Kansai (Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe) megalopolitan areas may house an unusually high proportion of the Japanese population, but the outlying areas are still outlying. I’m not aware of any regulation that says every municipality must have at least two rice-sellers or general stores, though you never know in Japan. Is it necessary (or wise) to be reforming Japan Post so that it maintains universal service by mimicking its current, drag-prone structure as much as possible–while piling on the number of corporations and rule-making bodies involved?

    Can’t wait to see what they come up with for the savings and insurance divisions!

    2 Responses to “Big plans for Japan Post”

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