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Ministers hit posts savings ceiling hike

Posted by Junichi Kawagoe on 27.2010 News Out of English Newspaper   0 comments   0 trackback
Kamei's plan riles colleagues in the Cabinet
Kyodo News Friday, March 26, 2010

Discord in the Cabinet over increasing the deposit cap for Japan Post's banking unit grew bitter Thursday as national policy minister Yoshito Sengoku called for reconsidering a plan put forward by postal reform minister Shizuka Kamei.

Kamei, who also serves as financial services minister, indicated he has no intention of accepting any changes in the main thrust of his plan, which includes sharp hikes in ceilings on deposits at Japan Post Bank Co. and life insurance coverage at Japan Post Insurance Co.

"The plan has been fixed," he said.

But at the same time, Kamei hinted at the possibility that some revisions will be made, saying he is ready to listen to opinions of many people whether they are Cabinet members or not.

Sengoku called for a reconsideration of the ceiling hikes, saying "it's a matter that involves the Cabinet as a whole. Open discussions should be carried out on Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance."

Sengoku expressed his concern that the Japan Post group would garner funds from depositors to the disadvantage of private-sector banks.

"The economy may shrink unless a mechanism is created to funnel funds to private-sector companies and industries," he said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano hinted at his reluctance to modify the plan because it has been agreed on between Kamei and internal affairs and communications minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi.

But he also said later he was ordered by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to coordinate the different opinions that exist within the Cabinet.

Kamei's plan effectively maintains the government's grip on the postal financial system and thus dilutes the full privatization previous administrations put in place.

It quickly drew fire from other Cabinet ministers as well as private-sector financial firms, prompting Hatoyama to suggest later Wednesday the plan may be revised.

With the barrage of criticism from Cabinet ministers Thursday, the plan has become a new problem for the Hatoyama administration, which hopes to adopt a postal reform bill for submission to the Diet next month.

The plan seeks to raise the postal savings ceiling from \10 million per person to \20 million and the life insurance coverage ceiling from \13 million to \25 million.

Kamei wants the government to retain more than one-third of its shares in Japan Post Holdings Co., with the holding company keeping stakes in its banking and insurance units.

Motohisa Furukawa, senior vice minister for economic and fiscal policy, said whether the postal savings ceiling hike is advisable should be reconsidered.
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