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Sunday, March 20, 2011
Pols fumble on reconstruction
One of the consequences of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent fiasco at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is that government leaders and politicians have demonstrated that they lack the ability to properly deal with a crisis. As a whole, neither the ruling Democratic Party of Japan nor opposition parties — including the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito — have lived up to public expectations that they will quickly act to alleviate the suffering of disaster victims and carry out reconstruction in a timely manner.
Politicians should seriously reflect upon the fact that various polls suggest that about 50 percent of the public supports no particular political party. This indicates a deep distrust of politics. Both the public and politicians must be aware that in this kind of situation, populist forces are likely to capture the hearts of voters with slogans and programs that give them false hope and that could lead the nation in the wrong direction.
The slow speed in which the government and the Diet are responding to the 3/11 disasters is deplorable. The first fiscal 2011 supplementary budget, which included funds for emergency measures for the disaster-hit areas, was enacted May 3, more than 50 days after the disasters hit the Pacific coastal areas of Tohoku. The basic law for reconstruction took effect June 20, more than 100 days after the disasters. The third fiscal 2011 supplementary budget, which contains ¥9.243 trillion for reconstruction efforts, wasn't enacted until Nov. 21. The Reconstruction Agency was established Feb. 10 — 11 months after the disasters struck.
Government leaders and politicians must remember that there can be no more delays in commencing full-scale work to reconstruct the devastated areas, create jobs there and decontaminate areas contaminated with radioactive substances from Fukushima No. 1. They must humbly listen to demands and complaints from local governments and residents concerned, and promptly take whatever steps necessary to help them.
They should also strive to remember what has happened in communities in the devastated areas. Forgetting the plight of people in the areas would be an unforgivable act. They must also work to eliminate red tape and end turf wars in bureaucracy, and create a system in which politicians and bureaucrats can work together in a seamless manner to accelerate the reconstruction.