郵政改革 4社案テコに与野党合意急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 22, 2012)
Ruling, opposition parties must push on with postal reform
郵政改革 4社案テコに与野党合意急げ(1月21日付・読売社説)

It can now be said that a step toward realizing postal reform has finally been taken.

The ruling and opposition parties should hold deliberations in the upcoming ordinary Diet session and ensure the nation's postal business is reformed in a way that benefits the public.

A working-level consultative meeting was held Friday between the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito regarding how to proceed with postal reform. The participants agreed to sum up what they have discussed so far.

An accord has been reached under which the government and the DPJ will drop, at least temporarily, a bill that would reorganize the five-company configuration of Japan Post Group into three companies. Instead, the three parties will discuss realigning Japan Post into a four-company structure.

The four-company plan is a Komeito proposal, and the DPJ is poised to accept the plan.

The LDP has no compelling reason to oppose the streamlining of the Japan Post Group organization and changes that would make postal services more convenient for customers.


Diet's neglectfulness

The realistic option would be for the ruling and opposition camps to get behind the proposed four-company system.

Much of the blame for the postal reform bill being stuck in limbo for nearly two years lies with the Diet.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also should be brought to task for the delay in postal reform deliberations in the legislature.
In a meeting with the president of the national federation of postmasters of privately owned post offices (Zentoku), Noda committed himself to "responsibly expediting" Diet business for postal reform.

What to do with government-held shares in Japan Post is the biggest obstacle to an agreement between the ruling and opposition blocs.

The government favors retaining "more than one-third" of Japan Post shares.

If this remains unchanged, the government will hold a stake in two firms under the Japan Post umbrella--Japan Post Bank Co. and Japan Post Insurance Co.

The LDP has laid siege to the government's position. The party claims that if the two financial service arms of Japan Post, which the LDP notes are "protected by tacit government guarantees," enter new markets such as cancer insurance, private-sector businesses will be put at a distinct disadvantage.

Financial and insurance businesses have demanded Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance be completely privatized.

In connection with this, insurance businesses in the United States have expressed concern over Japan Post financial services adversely impacting on private-sector business activities.

Due attention should be paid to ensure Japan Post reform discussions do not hurt this country's bid to join Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiations.


Gain from share sales unclear

Is it impossible to prevent Japan Post companies from gaining an unfair upper hand over private companies, such as by imposing some restrictions on their entry into new businesses?

We urge the ruling and opposition parties to find effective solutions to this problem.

If postal reform goes ahead, the current freeze on selling Japan Post shares will be lifted, and the government will be able to use the profit from sales of these shares to fund reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

However, the deterioration in postal service businesses shows no sign of ending, and it is unclear whether the government will bring in the about 6 trillion yen it expects to gain from selling off its Japan Post shares.

The volume of mail handled by post offices has been declining by 3 percent a year, leaving Japan Post Service swimming in red ink.

Postal savings and the number of postal insurance policies have fallen sharply since their peak.

Should Japan Post be left as is, it will be unable to take such steps as expanding into new businesses, and could get stuck in a rut.

There are fears Japan Post's corporate value could plunge.

Japan Post is a precious asset that belongs to the public. Its value must not be allowed to diminish because of the Diet's neglectfulness.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 21, 2012)
(2012年1月21日01時40分 読売新聞)

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