Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi launched an advisory panel Monday to discuss the privatization of postal services.

The panel is a mixture of 10 members from the private sector and Cabinet ministers, including Koizumi.

It will discuss the future of the three state-owned postal services — postal, savings and insurance — beyond 2003, when they are scheduled to fall under the operation of a public corporation.

“Before, anyone discussing any change in the course of postal businesses used to get a good scolding from the Diet, the ruling camp and even the opposition camp,” Koizumi said at the opening of the panel’s first meeting. What’s more, speaking about privatization was taboo.

“I assume that the discussions here will largely influence other fiscal and administrative reform initiatives as well.”

Economic critic Naoki Tanaka, who heads the advisory body, said he personally thinks the postal, savings and insurance services that the postal authorities operate should be privatized.

Tanaka is known as a major advocate of postal privatization.

The panel, which also includes Kazuto Ikeo, a Keio University professor and Satoru Matsubara, a professor at Toyo University, will compile a report in a year after holding monthly meetings.

Most of the private-sector members favor the privatization idea.

Although discussions will probably develop in favor of Koizumi’s initiative, actually carrying out the privatization will face fierce resistance from the prime minister’s Liberal Democratic Party.

Operators of rural post offices, who are largely against privatization, form the largest organized group backing the LDP.

Panel officials said the minutes of its discussions will be posted on the Web site of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

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