A key part of a special legislative package for disaster reconstruction will place land that was wrecked by the March 11 tsunami and has been abandoned by disaster victims under state ownership, it has been learned.
The government and Democratic Party of Japan are working on a set of bills to help with the rebuilding of regions struck by the disaster and hope to pass the package by the end of the month, government sources said Thursday.
Many tsunami-devastated coastal communities have been largely depopulated and are unlikely to be revived because of the severity of the disaster, the sources said. In addition to the areas laid waste by the tsunami, the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant could leave large tracts of land abandoned for a long period of time.
To address the scale of the tragedy, the special legislation will increase the burden the central government must pay to move disaster victims into evacuation shelters. Under the existing disaster relief law, the central government is required to fund three-fourths of the cost, according to the sources. The bigger ratio will ease the burden on local governments, which must pay for a quarter of the costs under the current system.
The legislation will also allow the central government to quickly purchase land made vacant by tsunami. Nationalizing land would facilitate the rebirth of tsunami-hit communities by coordinating reconstruction efforts, the sources said.
The legislative package will also abolish a system that reduces the gasoline tax by about 25 yen per liter when the national average price of regular gas tops 160 yen per liter for three months straight, the sources said. The tax-cut system could reduce government revenue by hundreds of billions of yen per year.
For farmers who have suffered losses due to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the planned special legislation will provide speedy lump-sum payments before exact compensation amounts are calculated according to the Compensation for Nuclear Damages Law, they said. The legislative package will also enable bans on shipments of radiation-affected crops to be lifted speedily and flexibly when the levels are deemed no threat to human health.
And to help disaster victims rebuild their lives, tax breaks or cuts will be given for home construction and vehicle purchases, the sources said.
Finally, the package will establish a “restoration promotion headquarters” that includes the entire Cabinet as well as a “restoration agency,” they said.