Saturday, August 13, 2005

While I was away.........

Tonight is the Tokyo Bay fireworks. The S.O. and I were supposed to be on a train there by now, but thanks to the arrival of her "monthly friend" she has been laid low and begged off. At first I was miffed and a tad bit skeptical, then by accident, I stumbled on a detailed play by play of the experience on Helen's blog. Since her complaints echoed many of the S.O.'s, I took pity on her, put her up on the couch with a blanket and a glass of wine and proceeded to make dinner. Besides, she wants to conserve her strength to go play golf tomorrow, so how can any one argue with that? I would be curious to see if you ladies out there agree with Helen's description.

So we stayed in and had dinner. Since she is not feeling well, not much else to do except blog:

So with time on my hands and beer on my desk, might as well do a round up of events on the proper side of the international date line (e.g. west of it!)

The big news here in Japan is Prime Minister Koizumi's decision to tell the opposition to "bring it on!" by dissolving parliament and calling for new elections. This is a very risky move on his part, because the issue in question, postal service privatization is not necessarily a sure win for him. Now for the folks on the wrong side of the dateline......perhaps you are wondering what the big deal is over something like postal reform. Here in Japan, the postal system is also a huge bank. The better way to think of this situation: Its as if the US Senate would kill the President of the United States' plan to overhaul Social Security: So GW dissolves congress and stakes his reputation over this:

Manages 25% of Japan's personal assets
25,000 offices and 260,000 employees
330 trillion yen (nearly $3 trillion) in savings and deposits
85% of population has postal savings

Add to that, much of the population is not wild about the government tinkering with their retirement savings.....( Remember too, retirement age here is much lower than in the states...) and you can see the problem

Furthermore, those assets are a huge slush fund that the government takes advantage of to pay bills, build roads, even build buildings on American bases. No self respecting Japanese politician wants to much with that pork barrel gravy train. So the fight will be a tough one:

But the plans had been opposed by many, who feared they would lead to a poorer postal services.

Opponents also said the reforms would lead to many job losses in rural communities.

Japan Post is a huge organization, which has about 25,000 post offices nationwide, which all sell the system's savings and insurance products, as well as regular postal services.

In contrast, the seven main national banks have only 2,600 branches between them.

Japan Post is also the biggest buyer of Japanese government bonds, helping Tokyo maintain unusually high levels of public debt.

In rural areas it has been traditionally used by politicians as an unofficial vote-gathering machine - and has often been used to support politically popular public works.

Local post masters have a certain status in small communities, and the job is often handed down over generations.

The package of six bills proposed that Japan Post became privatized by 2017, and divided into private companies handling mail delivery, banking and insurance.

There are huge ramifications for the US if Koizumi loses, particularly as the negotiations for basing a nuclear carrier are coming to their end game. Many had expected an annoucement this fall, that the Japanese government would allow a nuclear powered carrier to be homported in Yokosuka. Koizumi loses....who knows?

The election is less than a month away, should be interesting to watch.

Stay tuned to these pages, in an upcoming post I will talk about those US bases and their future........



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