Postal reform minister Shizuka Kamei on Wednesday unveiled, rather prematurely, an outline of a bill meant to change the postal privatization plan. The proposed bill would increase the government’s control of Japan Post group — a distinct departure from the full-privatization policy pushed by previous administrations — but it has yet to be discussed thoroughly by the Cabinet.

The plan proposes a three-way division of the current Japan Post group: the holding company and the mail delivery and over-the-counter services units would be merged to form a new company, with the banking unit and insurance arms operating under that company’s wing but as separate entities. The government would hold more than one-third of the shares in the new parent company, maintaining its veto power on management decisions. The parent company itself would hold a stake of more than one-third in both the bank and insurance companies.

The Japan Post group would be required to offer not only postal but also banking and insurance services throughout the country’s network of some 24,000 post offices. This would be good news for residents in mountainous areas and on small islands.

The ceiling on bank account holdings for individual customers would increase from the current ¥10 million to ¥20 million, and the upper limit on insurance coverage would rise from ¥13 million to ¥25 million. Strong opposition to this measure from private financial institutions is expected, and there is also the question of whether the banking unit has the expertise to productively invest an expanded deposit pool. It may end up just buying more government bonds.

The proposed bill would also require the Japan Post group to give regular-employee status to 100,000 of its approximately 200,000 nonregular workers, a huge financial burden in itself. The group should consider new profit-making ventures — such as having post offices issue pension records and passports for a fee, and letting the banking unit partner with local commercial banks to service small loans — that would create new revenue streams without attracting the ire of private financial institutions.

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