¥5 trillion of Japan’s disaster reconstruction funds unused, government report says

JIJI

About ¥5 trillion in government funds earmarked for reconstruction projects in areas hit by the March 2011 disaster had not been used as of the end of fiscal 2015, the Board of Audit of Japan said Wednesday.

The figure accounted for about 15 percent of the ¥33.5 trillion in funds budgeted for such projects in the government-designated intensive reconstruction period between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015.

The board believes the funds were not used due to delays in coastal levee construction and rezoning work in areas devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

It called on the central government and municipal governments in disaster areas to communicate more closely and to quickly implement reconstruction programs.

At the request of the Upper House, the board scrutinized progress in disaster reconstruction projects planned for the five-year period.

At the end of fiscal 2015, coastal levees were completed in 87, or 15.1 percent, of the planned 576 sections of the Pacific coastline in 36 municipalities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which were hit hardest by the disaster.

The delays chiefly stemmed from difficulties coordinating opinions with local residents and concerned organizations.

The board also found that 10 of 31 coastal municipalities in the three prefectures failed to draw up tsunami evacuation plans for residents. A total of 105 evacuation facilities in the 31 municipalities were still located in areas flooded by tsunami, while 232 facilities failed to meet quake-proof standards or didn’t know if they met seismic regulations.

Under two programs aimed at helping businesses upgrade or build plants and distribution facilities in disaster areas, 232, or 24.2 percent, of the 958 firms covered by the programs gave up plant construction or facility upgrades mainly due to surges in material or labor costs or staffing shortages.