Japan's National Postal System

Charles Jannuzi b_rieux at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 24 23:26:12 MST 2002

Japan Post does show the potential for socialism
at a national level in areas that only
'capitalists' and 'free markets' are supposed to

For the past years, western analysts and quite a
few Japanese have accused national government
corporations in Japan of losing money at the
expense of taxpayers and Japanese big business
(which pays less and less tax as Japan drifts
ever more into recession after recession and

So the national government carried out a thorough
audit of all those 'money-losing' national
corporations, and the findings show the opposite:
only the express highway corporations are money
losers. Overall, most of those national
corporations make money.

The best and biggest example would have to be
Japan Post. It has three divisions, postal
delivery, postal savings, and postal insurance.
Japan Post reported 30 billion dollars in profits
last year. Postal delivery is a nationwide
monopoly more or less, though private delivery
companies have started to take over things like
bulk mail to some extent. Incredibly, Japan Post
even showed profits (though small) for postal

Now critics and reformers in Koizumi's government
and in the corporate part of Japan that shows its
globalist face (Sony, Toyota, etc.) , seeking to
make international 'markets'--market
players--happy-- are dead set on privatizing
Japan Post. Another victory of market ideology
over common sense.

Unable to claim that something like Japan Post
loses money, the marketeers are now claiming that
Japan Post feeds an incredibly wasteful national
government's construction budget. This is
incredible. The national government uses the
surplus from Japan Post inefficiently and even
wastefully, so rather than reform itself to spend
the money better, it wants to do away with the
source of revenue altogether!

Japan does waste a lot of money on infrastructure
projects, most often at the expense of local
environments and the small communities whose
fields, forests and waters are swallowed up in
all the concrete. However, name one developed or
fast developing country where this isn't true.
And it has to be pointed out that a lot of money
made available from Japan Post surpluses has gone
to make suburban and rural Japan more liveable
(many of the problems being the legacy of going
from poor and developing to 'fully developed' in
35 years, since the reality was much of Japan
lagged behind the fully developed face it showed
the world).

And the most glaring contrast is this: the US
wastes 400 billion dollars plus on military and
control systems, while Japan puts 1/4 that into
infrastructure projects that often do benefit
local communities (would that they only started
using it to restore the environments that big
business/Japan, Inc. has wrecked).

The best criticism that postal reformers can come
up with now is that Japan Post unfairly robs
savings and insurance business from the banks.
One scheme for thorough reform is a plan to
privatize and downsize the postal delivery
division and sell off the savings and insurance
to businesses, both Japanese and foreign (the US
private equity groups are chomping at their bits
to get at these). This plan even says that the
downsized postal delivery division could market
the savings and insurance products of banks and
insurance companies. Right, and I suppose the
banks and insurance companies will start to
deliver letters very cheaply.

This is breathtaking in its stupidity. First, the
national postal delivery system is good enough to
turn at least a small profit and is well placed
to take on more international business. Second,
if the postal delivery system is downsized to
5000 post offices (from 25,000), the whole system
loses its advantages and efficiciencies for
conducting savings and insurance nationwide in
such a profitable manner. The only thing
comparable on a nationwide scale left wouldn't be
the big banks or even insurance companies, but
Japan Agriculture's credit and insurance
cooperatives, and these do not blanket urban
Japan the way the postal system does. Moreover,
in this liberalized financial environment, there
are also forces (both inside and outside Japan),
calling for a corporate takeover of the JA as

If only someone now in the national government
had a lick of sense, they would see that they
ought to stop propping up big banks and insurance
companies that go under (often taking over the
bad loans and debt at taxpayers' expense so
foreign companies can take over a Japanese bank
or insurance company). Instead, every time a bank
or insurance company goes bankrupt, they ought to
nationalize its accounts or policies into the
postal savings or insurance. Literally hundreds
of billions of money could have been saved
already had the government done this from the
start of the post-bubble, high yen era.

Charles Jannuzi
a postal saver in Japan whose life insurer
(Kyoei) went bankrupt under guidance from US
Prudential (it's largest stockholder as it turned
out), and then had US Prudential steal his money
as it took huge profits selling off former Kyoei

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