japan government, planning, reconstruction, yomiuri shinbun

Disaster reconstruction should revitalize nation, yomiuri shimbun, 6/27/11

We hope the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas in the Tohoku region will lead to the revitalization of the whole nation.

The Reconstruction Design Council has compiled a set of proposals on rebuilding the areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Submitted to Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Saturday, the proposals incorporate requests from municipalities–which will play a leading role in reconstruction–as much as possible and make it clear the government will support the self-reliance of local communities.

The council produced a new approach to building local communities based on the philosophy of “disaster reduction,” or minimizing damage, rather than completely containing major disasters. The idea is reasonable as a basic guideline for the reconstruction.

The government needs to flesh out the proposals and make the utmost effort to translate them into reality.

As one of the main points of its proposals, the council advocated bold use of a special-zone system, which would allow deregulation and the transfer of authority to local governments.

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Special fisheries zone urged

For example, the council proposed creation of a special zone to revitalize the fishing industry. Such a zone would make it easier for companies to acquire fishing rights, which are currently allocated preferentially to local fishermen’s cooperative associations. The idea aims at finding a way for the fishing industry, which faces a serious manpower shortage, to survive by using companies’ money and expertise as a lever.

The fishermen’s cooperative associations strongly oppose the idea, but the government should tenaciously seek their understanding in cooperation with the prefectural governments.

The proposals also urge the creation of a special zone that would simplify the application process for land-use plans–which is currently different for urban areas, farmland and fishing ports–and centralize administrative authority. These steps will be necessary to swiftly build many towns over wide areas.

The government must speed up formulation of bills to create the special zones.

The council also proposed a system that would facilitate mass relocation of people in areas devastated by tsunami to upland sites. Full-scale financial assistance to local governments must be discussed because they do not have any financial reserves.

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Nuclear research facilities sought

With regard to Fukushima Prefecture, which has been directly hit by the nuclear crisis, the council recommended the development of state-of-the-art research and medical facilities to study and treat the effects of radiation and the creation of a base for research on renewable energy.

It is important to turn the nuclear crisis into something positive. We hope discussions on the matter will gain momentum under the government’s initiative, so residents of the prefecture can have hope for the future.

Obtaining stable financial resources over the long term is key to realizing the ideas incorporated in the proposals.

It is understandable that the council proposed a temporary tax hike. In particular, it urged the government to discuss core taxes from multiple perspectives. It says it is necessary to comprehensively discuss corporate, income and consumption taxes.

Some within the government are cautious about raising the consumption tax. However, a consumption tax rate hike must be positively considered, as the proposals advocate, to secure financial resources through burden-sharing based on solidarity among present generations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 26, 2011)

(Jun. 27, 2011)

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About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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