Hot-zone subsidies for retailers in works

JIJI

The industry ministry will launch a subsidy program in fiscal 2014 to attract retailers to evacuation zones around the radioactive Fukushima No. 1 power plant, sources said.

The program is aimed at paving the way for nuclear evacuees to return if and when nuclear evacuation orders are lifted for the afflicted areas. The entry of retailers would improve living conditions in areas that were heavily contaminated by fallout from the triple meltdowns and thus became virtual ghost towns, the sources said Saturday.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering plans to finance the initial investment retailers would need to make to open outlets in the hot zones, the sources said. The necessary outlays will be put into its fiscal 2014 budget request.

The ministry has already created a subsidy program for manufacturers that build factories in Fukushima, but no such aid program has been put into place for retailers.

“In order to assist evacuees in returning to their homes, it is essential to rebuild the retailing industry, which offers services needed in their daily lives,” a senior ministry official said.

Under the envisaged program, the ministry is looking at shouldering some of the cost of opening new outlets in hot-zone shopping malls that local governments plan to build in a bid to revive the region’s economies, the sources said.

Details, including the eligible business categories and subsidy rate, will be decided in talks with local governments.

The evacuation zones span 11 coastal municipalities in Fukushima, but residents in areas with the lowest radiation levels are expected to be able to return as early as fiscal 2014.