Reconstruction agency bill passed

Legislation paves way for issuance of special bonds for rebuilding

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

A basic law for reconstructing the Tohoku region, including plans to form a new agency dedicated to this task, cleared the Diet Monday, more than three months after the megaquake and tsunami calamity.

The legislation was approved by a majority vote not only by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan but also with support from the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and other opposition parties.

“The objective of the law is a smooth and swift implementation of measures to reconstruct the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster zone . . . and to realize an economic society in which the people will be able to rest assured and live a rich life now and in the future,” the bill stipulates.

The new fundamental law mandates the creation of a reconstruction agency “at the earliest possible date.”

The new agency will compile and carry out an overall plan to rebuild the disaster area and a new minister will be appointed to oversee it.

The law will also enable “reconstruction bonds” to be issued to fund the rebuilding effort.

“The enactment of this basic law will bring the restoration and reconstruction to a new level,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan told an Upper House committee on quake reconstruction Monday afternoon.

Although reconstruction has taken top priority on the government’s agenda, the Diet took more than three months to enact the bill compared with the one for the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, which took just over a month. This reflects the persistent backbiting that has exacerbated the nearly dysfunctional ties between the ruling and opposition camps.

The DPJ-led government submitted its own reconstruction bill in mid-May, but it was later scrapped under opposition pressure because it didn’t provide for forming the new agency.

The DPJ, LDP and New Komeito instead agreed on a revised version of the legislation earlier this month.

The final Upper House committee session was set to take place Monday morning, but deliberations were suspended till the afternoon amid angry protests from the opposition over the departures of Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa for the U.S. “two-plus-two” meeting of defense and foreign ministers without the chamber’s approval.

According to an Upper House representative, there is no law that prohibits ministers from going abroad without Diet approval, but it is “customary” for the government to ask for the opposition parties’ consent.