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Only 40% of gov’t subsidies for Tohoku disaster projects spent, mainichi, 3/26/2015

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Only 40.5 percent of government subsidies granted to reconstruction-related projects by municipalities and other entities in Japan between fiscal 2011 and 2013 was used as planned, a review by the Board of Audit of Japan showed Monday.

A total of 3.4 trillion yen ($28.38 billion) was extended to 102 projects during the period for a wide range of areas such as housing, medical services, nursing care and welfare. But only 1.3 trillion yen was spent as of the end of fiscal 2013, as some projects were not carried out as initially planned, or may have been overfunded in the first place.

The Board of Audit of Japan said the finding is not necessarily problematic, given that reconstruction projects need multiple years to be completed. But the body, which checks state expenditures, urged the central government to “examine whether the scale of such projects is appropriate.”

Japan marks the fourth anniversary on March 11 of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc on the Tohoku region in the country’s northeast, but reconstruction is far from complete.

Six projects saw their granted subsidies unused, including one to extend low-interest loans to disaster victims to build and repair houses, partly because it took time to reorganize town lots and prepare them on higher ground.

In the three hardest hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima alone, 50.9 percent of 1.7 trillion yen in state subsidies granted to 62 projects was used.

The review also found a combined 136 billion yen allocated for 32 disaster-related projects had been returned to the state by the end of March 2014.

Roughly 90 percent of the amount, or 123 billion yen, was given back as the government tightened control over the use of subsidies for reconstruction amid revelations that some subsidies had been diverted to other purposes.

Japan allocated 25.1 trillion yen in reconstruction-related budget from fiscal 2011 to 2013 including the subsidies granted, with around 20.1 trillion yen, or 80.1 percent, spent, according to the board. The rate compares with 77.2 percent in the previous survey that covered fiscal 2011 and 2012.

Around 3 trillion yen was left unspent on such projects as rebuilding of public and medical facilities and removal of waste produced after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, as projects were delayed due to poor coordination, according to the report.

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