Government officials warn Fukushima reconstruction funds not being used on critical projects

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Japan’s finance ministry has started reviewing the criteria used to review subsidy requests for reconstruction programs after many government officials point out that funds are being spent on projects little related to reconstruction work.

“To be honest, I cannot approve the way (some of the reconstruction funds) has been used,” Reconstruction Minister Tatsuo Hirano said at a recent news conference.

The 2013 Fiscal Year budget has placed no limit on reconstruction expenses following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and while the funds are being used, the majority of the contaminated debris from the Fukushima nuclear disaster remains to be disposed of, and no final permanent storage plan has been approved of.

An investigation by NHK, revealed that substantial portions of the Y19 trillion fund is going to promote the whaling industry, to train prison inmates in regions outside of the disaster zone, and even to fund nuclear research by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

There have been multiple reports that funds from the recovery fund have been used to prop up the Japanese whaling program, which may otherwise be suspended as the whaling fleet’s mothership, the Nisshin Maru, is in port requiring extensive repairs.

In December 2011, reports surfaced that nearly Y500 billion was earmarked to be spent on fisheries and extra security for the whaling fleet.  At the time, Tatsuya Nakaoku, an official from the Japanese Fisheries Agency, said the funds would help “support the reconstruction of a whaling town and nearby area.”

The budget also allotted some Y4.2 billion to conduct nuclear research by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, claiming that promoting technology will support reconstruction.

In Okinawa, Y500 million is being spent on a sea wall that the contractor admitted to NHK was “not really an essential project.”

Iwao Sato is the sociology of law professor at the University of Tokyo, he said “The government has mostly focused on building seabanks, elevating land levels and other infrastructure development.” Sato added, “But more attention is probably needed on supporting the livelihoods of people through direct assistance on employment and homes, or else people will leave.”

Meanwhile, in the most affected areas, railways and roads are still severely damaged, and a lack of local infrastructure has worried many evacuees who are still unable to return to their homes.  While some of the debris has been gathered into massive piles, government estimates have been consistently too low, and very little actual rebuilding has begun so far.

“The people who evacuated the area after the disaster won’t feel compelled to return unless they can find stable jobs, so reconstruction without job creation would be a failure,” said Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

Officials must produce a better plan, and ensure the funds are spent on only the most effective projects which offer the best return, if they want to ensure the most affected regions have a chance at revival.

Source: JiJi Press

Source: The Telegraph

Source: ABC News

Source: USA Today

Source: Reuters

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