• on Jul 6th, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 27 comments
    In developing countries, postal services are often critical to reaching a vast underprivileged populace. How do posts in these countries cope with the tension between their universal service obligation and financial viability? A look at today’s India Post offers some insights. First founded under British colonial rule 150 years ago, India Post connects India’s people through a network of more than 150,000 post offices. More than 80 percent of these post offices are in rural areas, where residents primarily depend on postal services to communicate with the outside world. In India’s urban areas, however, middle class consumers have options. They also rely on the professional services of private couriers or the Internet. India Post has shown consistent losses. In recent years, private-sector competitors have siphoned off revenue, and costs have risen dramatically. Not surprisingly, given its financial difficulties, India Post’s widespread rural presence has drawn a lot of criticism. The Indian Government subsidizes more than half the cost of rural post offices, but they are still unprofitable. Critics argue that many are unnecessary and should be closed. Another common prescription for India Post’s losses is privatization. Proponents believe that privatization would improve the quality of services. To improve its financial condition, India Post is experimenting with options such as providing investment and emailing services to customers in rural areas. It already runs the largest savings bank, with a customer base of more than 170 million people. Rural and urban post offices also offer a variety of insurance products. Another initiative is micro-finance. In some rural areas, India Post offers loans to small businesses that may be denied credit by mainstream banks. Many of these services have helped offset India Post’s losses while at the same time providing financial services in deprived areas. There is hope for India Post’s future profitability. India has experienced phenomenal economic growth in recent years, and as a result, there is great potential for growth in postal services. To capitalize on the opportunities of India’s economic progress, India Post is trying to cater to the demands of the growing business sector by providing international money transfers and other services. In urban areas, India Post is exploring providing access to ATMs and non-postal retail services like train and bus reservations. India Post could also consider expanding these types of services to rural areas. The rural population would greatly benefit from these and other services such as faxes and electronic money orders. There are many options for India Post to leverage its network. By improving its infrastructure, technology, and customer service, India Post can continue its important role in India’s economy. What kind of a business model should India Post adopt? Do you think India Post’s experience providing universal service has any lessons for the United States Postal Service? This blog is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jun 29th, 2009 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 24 comments
    If you’re reading this blog, you likely have an interest in the Postal Service and its financial welfare. How can the Postal Service provide you and other stakeholders with the most appropriate financial information? When the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (the Act) was enacted on December 20, 2006, it made significant changes to the Postal Service’s financial reporting responsibilities and governance. Although the Postal Service is not subject to regulation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Act required the Postal Service to file with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) a number of financial reports containing information prescribed by the SEC (i.e., information contained on SEC Forms 10-Q, 10-K, and 8-K). The Act also specifically required the Postal Service to report certain financial information concerning pension and postretirement health obligations in its SEC-type 10-K annual report based on data provided by the Office of Personnel Management. In addition, the PRC recently issued a Notice of Final Rule Prescribing Form and Content of Periodic Reports dated April 16, 2009, requiring the Postal Service to provide an annual Integrated Financial Plan, a Monthly Summary Financial Report, a monthly National Consolidated Trial Balance, and a monthly Revenue and Expense Summary. Why do you believe that each of the selected reports/documents is required for appropriate public disclosure? (Please explain in the comments below.) Why do you believe that those reports/documents not selected are inappropriate for public disclosure? (Please explain in the comments below.) This topic is hosted by the OIG's Financial Reporting directorate.
  • on Jun 22nd, 2009 in Labor | 14 comments
    It takes a lot of digging to find a positive Hollywood portrayal of postal employees. From Cheers’ Cliff Clavin to Seinfeld’s Newman, TV and the movies have not always portrayed postal employees in the most favorable light. Even Mr. Rogers’ postman sidekick, Mr. McFeeley, was seldom seen actually delivering any mail. “Going postal” was coined and seemed to be a recurring Hollywood theme in the 1990’s, when the movie mills cranked out “Jingle All The Way,” with Sinbad playing a crazed letter carrier, and “Postal Worker”, which portrayed the entire agency as a simmering pot of twisted individuals. And who can forget, “Zarkorr! The Invader,” the Godzilla rip-off, where a Newark postal worker was tasked with fighting this monster — almost as bad as facing a full set of circs (flyers) on a Tuesday after a Monday holiday. What’s at stake? If he fails, the world will be destroyed. There are exceptions. The mail itself is often treated affectionately. The happy ending to Miracle on 34th Street (1947) hinges on the delivery of letters to Santa. In The Shop Around the Corner (1940), Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan work side by side but fall in love through the mail. The Postal Inspectors have also had a good run of positive films, starting in 1936 with Postal Inspector, featuring Bela Lugosi (yes, the same one who starred as Dracula), Appointment with Danger in 1951, and the more recent Showtime Inspectors movies with Lou Gossett and Jonathan Silverman.
    picture of Cliff from Cheers

    Unfortunately, postal employees on the big and small screen are most often portrayed as the Rodney Dangerfield types. No respect. Their heroic deeds of saving a life, or just doing their jobs without fanfare, are rarely aired. The majority of postal employees are dedicated, hard-working individuals. So how did this negative stereotype start? Why do you think postal employees get the short shrift on heroic roles? And what can be done to turn Hollywood around and point them in the right direction?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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