Fix postal service flaws from users' standpoint
We hope members of the envisaged coalition government will find the best way to make post offices more convenient and dependable hubs of local communities, while taking advantage of the benefits of postal service privatization.
The Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party included a plan to drastically review privatization of postal services in the agreement they signed Wednesday to launch a coalition government next week.
The three parties have agreed to freeze sales of stocks of Japan Post Holdings Co. owned by the government, and of stocks of Japan Post Bank Co. and Japan Post Insurance Co. owned by Japan Post Holdings Co. Furthermore, the parties agreed to review the four-unit postal system under the holding company.
It is a fact that many people believe the privatization of postal services has made them rather inconvenient. In the past, you could ask a mail deliverer, who came to your home, to deposit money in your savings account at a post office. However, this has become impossible since privatization because postal and banking services are now provided by two different companies. No doubt some customers are left scratching their heads when they see the counters of Japan Post Network and Japan Post Service set side-by-side at some post offices.
Some people have complained they cannot collect registered mail at nearby post offices, which could not be delivered to their homes as they were out. Others insist they are waiting longer to be served at their post office since privatization.
Preserve beneficial aspects
Inconveniences caused by the breakup and privatization of postal services must be remedied. We hope members of the envisaged government will take up nuisances and issues that have surfaced in the two years since privatization and review them from the standpoint of the customer--including the question of whether the four-unit Japan Post system is the best for end users.
A main pillar of the postal privatization was to shift money at Japan Post's financial arms from the public sector to the private sector to revitalize the domestic economy. We think this endeavor should be fiercely protected.
Postal privatization is changing the long-time structure in which a massive amount of money that Japan Post's financial arms collect from the public by tapping the government's credibility is injected into companies and organizations where retired bureaucrats hold plum jobs.
However, the Japan Post group, which is fully sponsored by the government, still wields the power to collect funds with the implicit state guarantee.
It is essential to sell all the stock of Japan Post Bank Co. and Japan Post Insurance Co. for a complete privatization that will not allow a government-sponsored megabank and insurance company to remain intact and weigh on the business of private companies.
However, concerns linger that the management of these two companies after they are fully privatized might decide to terminate financial services in underpopulated communities.
We think it better not to require these companies to offer nationally unified financial services because that would restrict their freedom of management. But by the same token, some policy measures will be needed to prevent the emergence of communities where no financial services are provided.
Shortcomings in the postal service network also must be fixed.
After privatization, some post offices that were not directly operated by the government were temporarily closed.
Although the number of these post offices has been arrested with the hike in fees Japan Post pays to entrust its services to agricultural cooperatives and other organizations, about 300 post offices remain shuttered. Surely something more can be done to improve this situation.
DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama, prime minister in waiting, said he would continue to demand the resignation of Japan Post Holdings Co. President Yoshifumi Nishikawa, whose management responsibility has been brought into question over a series of scandals, including an aborted attempt to sell the Kampo no Yado resort inn network.
Disruptions to postal services caused by privatization--including its management system--must be ironed out.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 11, 2009)