Myanmar to get Japan Post model of efficient, fast mail

by Hiroki Noda

Kyodo

An initiative has been launched to modernize Myanmar’s postal system by introducing Japan’s fast, efficient and precise services, in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic revitalization plans featuring exports of advanced technologies and services, especially to developing countries in Asia.

Though the two sides have held three rounds of working-level talks so far, Japanese officials believe it will take some time to realize Japanese-style postal services in Myanmar, where people are unused even to writing postal codes.

“It takes a week or so in Myanmar to get mail and parcels delivered from the northernmost to the southernmost part of the country,” said Masatoshi Kawano, a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications official involved in the initiative.

“But media reports that postal items frequently get lost in Myanmar may be exaggerated,” Kawano said. “We all know Myanmar’s economy will grow more, so better postal services will definitely be necessary to support growth.”

The Japanese postal system delivers 98 percent of all postal items within two days, no matter where in the country the sender and receiver are.

During an inspection of Tokyo post offices on the sidelines of bilateral postal talks in May, Myanmar Communications and Information Minister Myat Hein appeared impressed with workers sorting items efficiently and serving customers well.

In September, Myat Hein met again with his counterpart, Yoshitaka Shindo, to confirm their commitment to start actual work in 2014, while Vietnam became the second country to reach a similar postal support agreement with Japan.

Kawano, director of the International Affairs Office at the ministry’s Postal Services Policy Department, cited as his major concern the difficulty of teaching local workers the Japanese way of providing postal services.

“This is going to be a long project,” he said. “We plan to send a team of trainers to Yangon and other key cities in Myanmar. We will teach local workers everything we can, but they will be the ones to do the job in the end.”

The rollout of the new system must include a communications campaign to inform locals about how to address postal items for the quickest possible delivery. Improvement of infrastructure such as roads and power generation is also indispensable.

Together with Japan Post Co., the ministry is now trying to determine what types of postal services offered by post offices in Japan would suit Myanmar and boost the country’s development, according to Kawano.

Potential uses for expanded postal services include postal banking to give customers more transaction options, as well as correspondence courses that could bring education to people outside major cities.

In yet another symbol of bilateral cooperation, Abe and Myanmar President Thein Sein are expected to ensure cooperation in a Japan-led industrial complex project in Myanmar when they meet on the sidelines of a summit between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations starting Friday in Tokyo, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

Construction of the complex, located inside the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, south of Yangon, began on Nov. 30. Thein Sein has expressed his desire to launch operation of the Thilawa SEZ, the first-ever special economic zone in Myanmar, in 2015.