Reconstruction legislation

The government on Friday submitted to the Diet a bill containing the basic outline for the reconstruction of northeastern Japan, which was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and another bill to increase the number of Cabinet members from the current 17 to 20 to help hasten reconstruction. The former includes a rider calling for the establishment of a reconstruction agency, as proposed by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

In the case of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama appointed Mr. Sadatoshi Ozato as minister in charge of matters related to the quake four days after the disaster. A basic law to establish a reconstruction headquarters was enacted slightly more than a month after the quake. Compared with these cases, the reconstruction efforts of Prime Minister Naoto Kan have lagged, even taking into account the Fukushima No. 1 power plant issue and the extent of the devastation

The Kan administration will have a tough time in the Diet because the Upper House is controlled by the opposition. The situation will likely only worsen for the administration as June 22, the last day of the current Diet session, approaches

The administration plans to submit a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2011 to fund full-scale reconstruction to an extraordinary Diet session that will start during or after summer. It has no plan to extend the current Diet session.

Mr. Kan will likely face strong criticism from the opposition parties and the public. Although the rider mentions the establishment of a reconstruction agency, the government and the LDP-Komeito opposition bloc disagree on the issue. The administration plans to pass legislation to establish it within one year after the reconstruction law goes into effect. The LDP and Komeito call for the immediate establishment of an agency empowered not only to devise plans but also to carry them out.

To speed up reconstruction efforts the Kan administration should reach a compromise with the opposition. The administration should also devise ways to most efficiently meet the diverse requirements of the disaster-struck areas.