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Postal Reform Bill Starts in Japan

July 9, 2002

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TOKYO (AP) _ Parliament’s lower house on Tuesday approved bills to open Japan’s postal services to competition, one of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s key economic reforms.

The legislation passed Parliament’s more powerful chamber by acclamation, said a lower house spokesman. It now moves on to the upper house for approval, though passage into law is ensured no matter the outcome there.

The bills would allow private companies into mail delivery and shift control of the postal service from the state to a public corporation.

Reform of the system is an emotional issue here because postmasters play a large role in communities, particularly in remote rural areas. They deliver mail, but also manage savings accounts and even run errands for elderly people.

Koizumi had to overcome opposition from conservatives within his own party to submit the bills, ultimately making concessions that critics say have diluted their content to the point that private sector access to the industry will actually be impeded.

Koizumi denies that and says his pet project to eventually privatize the postal industry will be achieved. He has long advocated the reform and served as posts minister in the 1990s.

The postal reform bills require newcomers to set up 100,000 postboxes across the country _ a hurdle that prompted Japan’s biggest transport company, Yamato Transport, to drop its interest.

Critics also say that the legislation bars any reductions in the network of 25,000 state-run post offices and limits the type of mail that competing companies can handle.

Update hourly