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New players in Japan’s postal services would be obliged to set flat rates nationwide for ordinary mail of up to 250 grams after partial liberalization in 2003 under government-drafted legislation, Liberal Democratic Party officials said Tuesday.

The legislation would require private firms to set a flat rate of up to 80 yen for mail of up to 25 grams and an unspecified flat rate for items weighing up to 250 grams, the LDP officials said.

The legislation on a proposed law on confidential correspondence would also require private firms to accept mail every day and deliver it six days a week in principle.

The bill also sets minimum requirements for the number of mailboxes to be installed by private mail firms for every 1,000 people at 0.5 mailbox in government-designated major cities, 0.6 in cities with populations of at least 100,000 and 1.2 mailboxes in cities of at least 10,000 people.

The legislation, drafted by the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry, was presented to the LDP’s policymaking panel on the postal service along with a bill to create a public entity to take over postal services in 2003.

The legislation was met with caution and objections by the LDP panel, which includes lawmakers opposed to the privatization of the postal services. Special types of hereditary post offices have long served as vote-gathering machines for LDP lawmakers.

Such “tokutei yubinkyoku” post offices have been accused of helping muster votes for LDP candidates by using their close ties with local communities.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has championed the full privatization of the postal services, currently monopolized under the Postal Services Agency.

The bill to create the new public corporation would allow it to invest in postal services-related businesses upon approval of the posts minister. It also stipulates that the corporation’s employees must be public servants.

But it is unclear whether the two bills will clear the Diet without any amendments, with an LDP lawmaker close to the chief of the LDP panel saying, “We have no plans to endorse them in a package.”

The privatization of the postal services — mail, postal savings and “kampo” life insurance — is a highly political issue, as a bipartisan group of some 150 lawmakers with vested interests in the postal services opposes Koizumi’s privatization drive.

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