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Kawabata says too early to sell Japan Post shares

by Hiroko Nakata

Staff Writer

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Tatsuo Kawabata said Monday it is too early for the government to consider selling its shares in Japan Post Holdings Co. as a source of financing reconstruction in the disaster-hit areas.

Asked how much the government can rely on the sales as the funding source, Kawabata told reporters in a group interview “it is not on the table right now.”

The news comes at a time when the question of how to finance projects to help recovery in the Tohoku region, devastated by the March 11 quake and tsunami, has gained the spotlight.

Some lawmakers have reportedly called for selling the government’s shares in the group to finance the budget and to reduce the size of tax hikes in the future.

In 2009, the ruling bloc used its Lower House majority to pass a law to freeze the government’s planned sale of shares in Japan Post and its banking and insurance units.

Kawabata said the priority is to pass a bill that aims to roll back the current postal reform, and the ruling coalition believes that realigning the group would improve the quality of services by Japan Post.

But the future of the bill depends on the Diet schedule, Kawabata said.

“I’d like the bill to be passed as early as possible,” the former education minister said. “(But) the result will depend on discussions among the parties at the Diet.”

Kawabata, 66, was appointed internal affairs minister Sept. 2.