Foundation for reconstruction

As late as nine months after the March 11 quake and tsunami, the foundation for pushing reconstruction has firmed up after the Diet finally enacted the fiscal 2011 third supplementary budget and laws to secure reconstruction funds, establish the Reconstruction Agency and set up “reconstruction special zones” (fukko tokku).

More than ¥11.7 trillion will be poured for reconstruction efforts. The financial burden on tsunami-hit municipalities to move communities to highlands will become virtually zero. Disaster-hit 222 municipalities in 11 prefectures can apply for establishment of special zones to which special treatment such as deregulation and tax privileges will be provided. Reconstruction efforts have been much delayed and such efforts cannot be left to local governments. The central government should help municipalities so that they will be fully ready to execute budgets for reconstruction.

To receive special zone designation, municipalities are required to work out specific plans, which needs a lot of work. Moving communities to highlands and land rezoning need specialists who can design projects and order necessary materials. Also, administrative workers need to create consensus among local residents concerning the moving of communities and rezoning.

Fearing a shortage of necessary personnel, Gov. Yoshihiro Murai has asked the central government to dispatch 1,262 municipal and other workers to 15 municipalities in his prefecture. Especially workers with knowledge of civil engineering are needed. The situation must be similar in other disaster-hit prefectures.

The central government and local governments outside disaster-hit areas should dispatch workers to disaster-hit areas as soon as possible. The central government also should directly help municipalities work out plans for special zone designation to shorten the time spent before the designation.

Firms that establish operations in special zones will be exempted from the corporate tax for up to five years. But the privilege is to be given after the zone designation is given. The central government should be flexible in this matter.

Creating stable job opportunities in disaster-hit areas is also important. Without stable employment opportunities, people will be leaving such areas, further delaying reconstruction.