Rebuilding work still bogged down in red tape

Members of the media and Tokyo Electric Power employees wearing protective suits and masks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Monday. The banner behind them reads: "Decreasing 0.01 millisievert per day per person". Reconstruction efforts in Japan's Tohoku region have been hampered by a severe shortage of workers and materials.


THREE years after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, myriad problems from a shortage of concrete to bureaucratic red tape still plague the reconstruction of coastal areas of Japan's northern Tohoku region.

A recent Asahi Shimbun poll found that of the 42 mayors in the three worst-hit prefectures - Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima - 60 per cent felt that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would become a drag on reconstruction.

Work on a 17 billion yen (S$209 million) multi-purpose sports complex in Tokyo began last month, while that for a 130 billion yen main stadium to be used for the opening and closing ceremonies will start next year.

In addition, the extension and repair of the capital's ageing highway system would cost 4 trillion yen and the building of three ring roads another 2 trillion yen.

But, in fact, Tohoku's problem is not money.

The government has earmarked 25 trillion yen to be spent over five years until 2016, and much of it has yet to be used up.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a press conference yesterday: "The government hopes to tackle the creation of a new Tohoku that will serve as a model for both our country and the world."

Ironically, Tohoku's problem is a severe shortage of labour and construction materials, caused by Mr Abe's promotion of public works projects nationwide to stimulate the economy.

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