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Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 136 (April 8, 2004)

Prime Minister Junichiro KoizumiProfile

[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
(Provisional Translation)

"Lion Interview" Two

<< Privatization of Postal Services >>

--- This is the second installment of the "Lion Interview" continuing from last week. There have been many questions on the issue of privatization of postal services, one of the reforms you have advanced based on the principle of "from public sector to private sector." Would you please share with us what the specific benefits are in privatizing postal services?

(Prime Minister Koizumi)

First of all, whether it's mailing services, savings or insurance, the private sector already manages such operations. Every day we get one step closer to actually "leaving to the private sector what it can do."

While private corporations have to pay such taxes as corporate tax, postal offices do not. They are also exempt from paying deposit insurance premiums, which is obligatory for all private financial savings institutions.

Using money from postal savings and postal life insurance, the government utilizes special public corporations to implement projects from which it is hard to generate profit yet that are deemed necessary for the people.

Greenpia resorts were built using the employees' pension fund, Kampo inns and Mielparque facilities were created with money from postal life insurances and postal savings. I wonder if people really know that these inns and hotels are available to them at reasonable rates thanks to the efforts of the government using money generated from the pension and postal funds?

Obviously everyone is glad that they can use inns that offer a lower rate than those operated by the private sector. How is such a rate possible? The only answer is because it is financed through postal life insurance and postal savings.

Had those inns been financed through loans by private financial institutions and accumulated non-performing loans, the situation would have been very different. That is because private corporations must cover their own loss if they cannot turn a profit. Special public corporations, however, cannot ask the people with postal savings or who have joined the postal life insurance to bear their deficit. This results in the use of tax money and insurance premiums to compensate the loss.

With adequate explanation, tax money can be injected for a truly essential project, instead of delving into postal savings and postal life insurance.

While the Government Housing Loan Corporation will be abolished, private financial institutions are also capable of providing long-term, low interest loans for housing. Immediately after the decision was made to abolish the Government Housing Loan Corporation, almost every private financial institution stepped in to the market with alternative financing solutions to fill the needs of borrowers.

If the management of post offices is left in the hands of the private sector, more diverse and new services will be developed. The previous claim that parcel delivery services could not be managed by the private sector no longer holds true today. We have witnessed the entry and advancement of many private corporations that provide better services than the post offices and at a cheaper rate. There isn't anything that cannot be handled by the private sector.

Private corporations pay taxes on their operations. If the postal services are privatized, they too must yield profit or else go bankrupt. Once they start turning a profit, they become tax payers. We must use valuable taxes efficiently.

Under the pseudonym "special public corporations," the government has provided loans for various reasons that were financed by postal savings and postal life insurance. We must put an end to such using money in that way.

At the same time, however, people must move away from the mentality of "cheaper is better." Privatization of postal services is an absolutely necessary reform in order to make everyone aware where and how tax revenue is being used in projects by special public corporations.

This is a problem common to all government agencies and will lead to the reform of all special public corporations. That is why what we are doing in privatizing the postal services is a reform of historic proportions for the country.

Post offices have accumulated experience in the areas of finance, insurance and distribution, and they also have a nationwide network. I am therefore looking forward to seeing the services that will be launched once they are under the management of the private sector. With both the Tokyo Central Post Office and Osaka Central Post Office having such prime locations, it's a waste to only conduct three types of operations-mailing services, postal savings and postal life insurance.

I cannot reiterate enough how important the postal services reform is for our country.

<< Food Safety >>
---The readers are gravely concerned over food safety. Could you share with us your thoughts on food safety such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and avian influenza?

Food safety is an issue of the highest public concern right now. People are justly concerned about how the food they eat will affect their wellbeing.

What you eat is fundamental to your health. As such, the question becomes how the government is taking the measures necessary to respond to expectations by the public for safe food to be provided by food companies. This is one area in which we will be focusing more efforts.

We also have to build a strong front in preventing the spread of disease. In the case of BSE, for example, Japan took the most firm and thorough stance in the world by inspecting each cow in Japan. Again, with avian influenza, robust prevention measures have been taken to guard against its spread and that have so far been successful. We are pursuing measures that are built on cooperation among producers, food companies, people and the government.

We need to insist that food companies are meticulous in honest labeling so that consumers know that their products are "safe to eat." Taking eggs as an example, we all remember the problem with inaccurate expiration dates. I also want consumers to be aware of and learn about what is good for their health instead of just being concerned with price.

In my general policy speech this year I introduced the word "food education." Academic, ethical and physical education are familiar concepts to everyone. However the concept of "food education" is not too familiar to many people. It's about learning about eating -- what kind of food should be consumed for you to stay healthy. Also, as dining together is a basic skill required for facilitating interaction among people, learning from your parents and teachers about proper dining table etiquette is a great asset for anyone venturing out into the real world.

There are times when it's embarrassing not knowing how to properly use chopsticks or knife and fork. Furthermore, "food education" is very important in the context of getting people to focus their attention on their food and helping them maintain a balanced healthy diet.

The three basic principles for good health are a balanced diet, sufficient rest and the right amount of exercise. If you do not keep to these three basics and feel ill, you shouldn't think that all you have to do is just take medication and go to a doctor. Instead, you must always bear in mind the importance of managing your own health.

That is why food education is important. As the old saying goes, excessive drinking and eating is the first step to falling ill.

<< Goals as Prime Minister >>
--- To conclude, could you share with us what you have most enjoyed being a politician and what you would like to accomplish as prime minister?

When I look back on a life spent in politics, I guess what has been most worthwhile for me have been the times when I could improve the lives of many people. Giving my best and having people appreciate what I have done gives me the energy to carry on. This is also true when I am working with various people in dealing with the many issues of the social system. Even the most difficult problems can be solved in this manner. That aspect of my job is what I enjoy the most and what attracts me to it.

Nobody can really imagine just how intense the job of being prime minister is and the pressures that come with it. Nevertheless, I am determined to realize the reforms that I have started. Granted, maybe if I were to shy away from my responsibilities and quit, my life might be easier, but I want to finish what I started and I feel that I owe it to the many people who helped me become prime minister to achieve the reforms in line with my concept of "without reform there will be no growth."

People criticize my approach of "without reform there will be no growth" as an impossible goal by saying that there can be "no reforms without growth," but I will work relentlessly until the very end of my term to convince everyone, even the current critics, that indeed "without reform there will be no growth." I will continue to implement the reforms I have targeted and see to it that they remain on a stable track.

According to the basic concepts of "leaving to the private sector what it can do" and "leaving to the localities what they can do," we submitted a bill on privatization of the highway-related public corporations which everybody considered to be impossible. Next year, the bill on the privatization of postal services will be submitted to the Diet. The reform package of the three issues on subsidy, local allocation tax and transfer of tax sources under the concept of "leaving to the localities what they can do" has also made headway. Despite strong opposition, I will revitalize the economy through regulatory reforms.

There are also financial reforms such as the disposal of nonperforming loans. Even after the Koizumi Cabinet started the disposal of nonperforming loans, we were criticized by those who said that disposing nonperforming loans too quickly would in fact create more nonperforming loans. Still, the reality is that disposal of loans has progressed and I will advance the process as I originally planned.

For the next two years I will do whatever it takes to overcome the challenges we face. Once the reforms I have in mind become a reality I will have accomplished what I set out to do and would have no regrets in relinquishing the reins of government.

For now, I will give my all to finish everything that I have started and can assure you that Koizumi never leaves the job half-done.

--- Thank you very much for your time.

Thank you.

* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.

[What's up around the Prime Minister]

- Prime Minister Delivers Address to New National Public Employees (April 6, 2004)

- Prime Minister Observes the Counterterrorism Measures at Tokyo Narita Airport (April 5, 2004)
Prime Minister Koizumi observed a series of different security efforts for terrorism alerts and shoreline measures.

- Commemorative Ceremony for the 150th Anniversary of the US-Japan Relationship (April 3, 2004)
The ceremony was held to celebrate the 150 years of Japan-US relations since the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Amity.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
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