Claiming a mandate for change, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged in parliament yesterday to battle vested interests in his campaign to implement reform after his Cabinet approved his plan to privatize the sprawling postal service.
The government planned to submit the postal bills to a special session of parliament later in the day. A vote is expected sometime in the middle of next month, and the ruling coalition's strong majority following their landslide election win this month means the legislation should pass easily.
"I will solemnly accept the voice of the Japanese people and will be committed to realize postal privatization," Koizumi told lawmakers, claiming wide public support for reform after the coalition's victory on Sept. 11.
"Without fearing pain, without being daunted by vested interests, without being bound by precedents, and with the cooperation from the Japanese people, I will assume my responsibilities as prime minister," he said.
In his address, Koizumi reaffirmed the policies he has pushed for since taking office in 2001: structural reform, economic recovery while restraining public spending, and stronger relations with the US, typified by his dispatch of noncombat forces in support of US-led troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Koizumi's program was attacked during the campaign by the top opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan, which opposed postal privatization and vowed to withdraw troops from Iraq. But that message failed to resonate with voters.
The focus this fall will be on the plan to split up Japan Post's delivery, insurance and savings deposit services and sell them off by 2017. The program was endorsed at a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning.
Koizumi said yesterday that postal privatization would be the first in a series of reforms that he planned to use his enhanced clout to push for.
"I have been pressing for wide-ranging structural reforms in areas such as finance, taxation, regulation and expenditure, in order to revive and move forward our country since I took office," Koizumi said, pointing out the disposal of mountains of bad debts by Japan's banks under his watch.
Koizumi's ruling coalition, led by his Liberal Democratic Party, made major strides in Sept. 11 elections for the lower house of parliament. Koizumi called the snap elections after the upper house rejected the postal reform proposal in August. The election results -- which gave the coalition a powerful two-thirds majority in the lower house -- were widely seen as a mandate for the postal plan, which would create the world's largest private bank.
"The Japanese voters showed strong support and expectations for us to continue with reform," said Heizo Takenaka, economic minister and architect of the reform proposal. "First of all, we want to have the bills passed in this session."
Japan Post runs nearly 25,000 post offices and employs some 400,000 full- and part-time workers in its delivery, insurance and savings deposit services. It controls some 330 trillion yen (US$3 trillion) in deposits.