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Japan Starts Privatizing Postal System - 2004-09-10


Government data shows Japan's account surplus growing while machinery orders slow. Meanwhile, Japan's prime minister is moving forward with one of his key reform plans - privatizing the country's huge postal system. And some Japanese companies are complaining about a government plan that would make them public organizations in a national emergency.

Japan's current account surplus grew more than eight percent in July from a month earlier. The Finance Ministry says that is the 13th straight monthly gain.

Meanwhile, the government says Japan's core private-sector machinery orders dropped a seasonally adjusted 11.3 percent in July from the previous month. Analysts regard these machinery orders as a leading indicator of corporate capital spending. They say continued declines could signal slowing business investment.

Japan's cabinet on Friday endorsed a privatization plan for the postal system. Under the plan, Japan Post will be split into four parts - a mail delivery company, a postal savings system, an insurance provider and an entity providing over-the-counter services.

The prime minister faces fierce resistance to the idea from some lawmakers in his own party. Mr. Koizumi acknowledges continued opposition but says politicians in the governing coalition are gradually starting to support the postal reform plan.

Japan Post now has more than three trillion dollars in savings deposits and insurance assets, effectively making it the world's largest bank.

Japan's government says, effective next Friday (Sept. 17), some 160 companies will be designated as public organizations that must cooperate in aiding civilians during a national crisis. But 20 companies on the list, TV and radio broadcasters, are resisting - saying their freedom of speech could be violated during an emergency. Opponents of the plan, such as the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters, say such a compulsory program harkens back to the early 20th century, when Japan gradually fell under military control.

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