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Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012
Misuse of reconstruction funds
It has surfaced that a special account budget to fund the reconstruction of communities devastated by the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters has been used to pay for unrelated projects. As to be expected, the shortage of funds due to budget mismanagement has angered affected residents. The Diet should scrutinize the use of the fiscal 2012 reconstruction budget and disclose dubious projects. The government and the Diet also should prevent bureaucrats from including projects that do not bring direct benefits to disaster-hit communities in their requests related to the fiscal 2013 disaster reconstruction budget.
The basic policy for disaster reconstruction adopted by the government in July 2011 includes provisions that bureaucrats can take advantage of to utilize budget money for projects not directly related to the disaster areas. It says in part that the true reconstruction of the disaster-hit areas will be impossible without the resuscitation of the Japanese economy. This provision can be interpreted very liberally. The policy in fact allows the use of budget money for projects in locations that have close connections to areas directly affected by the disasters, and for disaster-prevention projects in locations outside the 3/11 disaster zones.
Nonetheless, the government and the Diet should sincerely respond to complaints from people in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures who were directly affected by the 3/11 disasters. For example, it is reported that more than 60 percent of associations of medium-size and small business owners in the disaster areas that requested aid to revive their companies had their requests turned down due to a shortage of funds.
The absurdity of this situation is revealed by the dubious projects funded out of the reconstruction budget. They include efforts to cope with activities of the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd organization (¥2.3 billion), quake-proofing work for 12 buildings of the National Tax Agency (¥1.2 billion), job training-related expenditure for prisons in Hokkaido and Saitama Prefecture (¥30 million), the purchase of six C130 transport planes for the Maritime Self-Defense Force and two C2 transport planes for the Air Self-Defense Force (¥15 billion and ¥25 billion, respectively), and training for ASDF fighter pilots in the United States (¥1.44 billion).
Despite the questionable nature of these projects, in an extremely partisan move the Democratic Party of Japan recently boycotted a Lower House Audit and Oversight of Administration Committee session to delve into the budget mismanagement. An Upper House committee held a session on Thursday.
The reconstruction budget is expected to amount to ¥19 trillion in a five-year period from fiscal 2011. It will include ¥10.5 trillion from a surcharge on income and residents' taxes, which will continue to be imposed for 10 to 25 years. The commonsense principle that use of the reconstruction budget should be limited to funding projects in the disaster-hit areas must be strictly followed.