Internal affairs minister Tsutomu Sato suggested Tuesday he may review the four-way split of Japan Post services.
“It needs to be managed based on the current situation and we need to launch a discussion,” Sato said in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.
Sato’s remark came after he gave the green light Monday to Yoshifumi Nishikawa’s reappointment as head of Japan Post Holdings Co., putting an end to a political feud that led to the resignation of Kunio Hatoyama, his predecessor at the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
Based on a 10-year road map for postal privatization, services are divided into mail delivery, post offices and other real estate, banking, and insurance under Japan Post Holdings.
Although a government panel in charge of reviewing Japan Post’s management has said it is too early to make drastic revisions to the road map, Sato’s remark may provoke such a discussion.
“We need to discuss with the Japan Post side whether we need to change (the current road map) for postal privatization,” Sato said. “We will make changes where improvement is necessary.”
Sato said one reason a review is necessary is that account holders are no longer able to entrust their postal savings to mail delivery staff.
Prime Minister Taro Aso made a similar remark in February, but a Liberal Democratic Party policy panel said later that month the four-tier postal services would be retained for the time being.
On Monday, Sato told Nishikawa that he would approve his reappointment, saying that Aso had also approved his decision.
In a meeting with Sato at the internal affairs ministry, Nishikawa offered to deduct 30 percent of his pay over the next three months to discipline himself in connection with Japan Post’s failed plan to sell the Kampo no Yado network of inns to major leasing company Orix Corp at fire-sale prices.
Japan Post Vice President Shokichi Takagi has also agreed to have 10 percent of his pay deducted over the three-month period, according to Sato.
These self-imposed pay cuts will be incorporated into the holding company’s operational improvement program to be submitted to the government, possibly on Wednesday, ministry officials said.
Nishikawa is now expected to be reappointed as president of Japan Post at a shareholders’ meeting next Monday.
Meanwhile, Hatoyama strongly criticized Aso on Monday for his decision to reappoint Nishikawa.
“Prime Minister Aso made a fatal misjudgment,” he said. “The LDP and the Cabinet is going in a direction opposite to the common sense of its people.”
The Japan Post group, now fully owned by the government, is going through a 10-year privatization process that started in fall 2007.
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