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The president of major courier firm Yamato Transport Co. on Tuesday criticized a set of of four postal services deregulation bills being debated in the Diet and reiterated his company’s decision not to enter the mail delivery business.

“The bills are counterproductive to reforms and are unacceptable to our company philosophy as well,” Keiji Aritomi told the House of Representatives Committee on Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications. “That’s why we decided not to enter the market.”

On April 26, Yamato Transport announced it had abandoned its plan to enter the mail delivery business, saying the government’s moves to privatize the sector are likely to burden new entrants with too many requirements.

The four bills include one that would allow private firms to offer mail services only under certain conditions, and another that would allow the establishment of a new public corporation in 2003 to take over the state-run mail, postal savings and “kampo” life insurance services.

Allowing private firms to compete in the postal service sector is one of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s key structural reform strategies. But it is also a highly political issue since a large number of lawmakers in the ruling and opposition parties have vested interests in postal services.

Early on, Yamato Transport expressed a keen interest in entering the field, but the strict requirements would leave postal services in the hands of the government and a handful of private companies, Aritomi said.

Such requirements would leave Yamato hamstrung, Aritomi said, adding that the service will not be improved if it remains monopolized by the government.

Responding to Aritomi’s remarks, Koizumi later told reporters: “Once the bills are enacted, (Yamato) will learn that private-sector firms can enter the market. After that, it is up to individual companies to decide.

“The reform bills mark a first step,” he added, reiterating his determination to privatize the state-run services.

Meanwhile, Japan Postal Workers’ Union Chairman Masayuki Ishikawa, who was also invited to testify before the committee, said he opposes the bills because they would intensify competition in a way that would only benefit big cities and large companies.

“Remote areas will be placed at a disadvantage, with likely increases in service fees,” Ishikawa said.

Mitsuko Yonaguni, a tour guide in Okinawa, told the committee that she fears the bills may result in the closure of unprofitable post offices in remote areas.

“We need a school even if there is only one student,” she said. “The same thing can be said with post offices. Post offices are indispensable to our daily life.”

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