Japan Post boss set to step down

Kyodo News

Japan Post Holdings President Yoshifumi Nishikawa announced Tuesday he intends to resign amid mounting pressure from the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration.

Nishikawa said he will submit his letter of resignation Oct. 28, when Japan Post holds a board meeting.

He told reporters at the holding company’s headquarters that there is a big difference between what he has already done and intends to do for the privatization of the Japan Post group and the new government’s policy.

“I cannot remain in my current post,” he said.

Shizuka Kamei, state minister in charge of postal services, said he will swiftly decide on Nishikawa’s successor, adding that he has some names in mind. Kamei, a strong opponent of Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization drive, has been demanding that Nishikawa go.

“It should be someone who could contribute to the local society and the nation,” said Kamei.

Names of business leaders, former presidents of public entities and retired bureaucrats of the internal affairs ministry have been floated in the Nagata-cho political district.

Postal privatization, the biggest reform effort under former Prime Minister Koizumi, has reached a turning point with the change of management and policies.

Nishikawa was considered a prime player in Japan Post’s aborted bid to sell its nationwide inn holdings at fire-sale prices to Orix Corp. in what was considered a shady deal.

The government is expected to submit legislation to revise the postal privatization process during the extraordinary Diet session to be convened next Monday. Although Nishikawa had been planning to list two of Japan Post’s financial units on the stock market, this has been met with opposition by the new administration, particularly Kamei.

Nishikawa, a former president of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., took the helm of Japan Post’s predecessor firm formed in 2006 in preparation for the postal privatization.

He assumed the presidency of Japan Post in October 2007 at the launch of a 10-year privatization process.

The holding firm is now wholly owned by the government and controls four companies that provide mail delivery, over-the-counter services, banking and insurance operations.

Earlier in the day, the government laid out its basic position on postal privatization at a Cabinet meeting, drastically changing the policy initiated by previous governments of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Under the new plan, the government will reorganize the Japan Post group to ensure universal postal services nationwide, stipulating that mail and financial services are to be provided in an integrated manner through the postal network. It did not elaborate on specifics.

New policy on postal reform

Kyodo News

The government will:

• Make the Japan Post group offer universal mail, savings and life insurance services in an integrated manner at post offices nationwide.

• Utilize the post office network as a “one-stop base” for government services.

• Legally require the group to offer uniform basic savings and insurance services nationwide.

• Introduce a new regulation to supervise the group’s financial operations.

• Reorganize the group’s current structure in which a holding company manages four units under its wing.

• Maintain the stock company status for the group companies.

• Oblige the group to disclose more information and raise its accountability.

• Abolish the current law on privatizing Japan Post.

Since September’s change of government, the DPJ-led ruling bloc has put the postal group in its sights, saying its operations under the existing framework have deteriorated and the current structure should be changed to better serve the public.

“The postal business was largely distorted by the Koizumi reforms and experienced a major retreat from what it was supposed to be,” financial and postal services minister Kamei told a news conference.

But Kamei, leader of Kokumin Shinto and whose priority has been to oppose Koizumi’s privatization plans, said he has no intention of bringing the postal business back to what it was before Koizumi carried out the reforms in October 2007.

“We will deal with this as if we are (embarking on) a new business,” Kamei said, adding the government will make related services more accessible to people living anywhere in Japan, including sparsely populated and mountainous areas.

The basic policy was endorsed in line with a coalition accord by the DPJ, Kokumin Shinto and the Social Democratic Party.

“We would like to scrutinize the services and business management” at the Japan Post group to “revitalize the regional communities,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said at a separate news conference.