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Disaster recovery funds diverted to irrelevant projects

September 21, 2012


Yoroku: Noda should 'exterminate termites' that eat away at disaster recovery funds




A book published in ancient China carries a story about termites eating away at money in a government coffer. During the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1654-1722), the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, enormous amounts of gold bullion disappeared from a safe storing revenue from taxes imposed on salt. Surprised bureaucrats examined the safe and found mountains of powder on the floor along the wall. They dug through the powder and found a huge number of termites.

When burned in a furnace, the powder turned back into gold bullion, but the gold fell short of its original value. The same book also carries a story about termites eating away at silver that Hebei province officials stored in a box.

An article in the Mainichi Shimbun's evening edition published in Tokyo on Sept. 13 quotes a legislator elected from an area hit by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami as lamenting that "termites are swarming over funds set aside for the restoration of disaster-hit areas, and diverting much of the money to projects irrelevant to disaster recovery." He is talking about projects such as those that make government buildings quake-resistant, the purchase of weapons for the Self-Defense Forces, research on nuclear fusion and subsidies for artists' overseas performances.

On Sept. 9, the "NHK Special" program aired by the public broadcaster reported that funds set aside for disaster recovery projects had been diverted to anti-terrorism and anti-Sea Shepherd measures, amazing residents of disaster-ravaged areas. Needless to say, over half of 19 trillion yen allocated for disaster recovery efforts over the five-year period following the quake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis will be raised by tax hikes.

On the other hand, sufficient financial assistance has not been extended to small- and medium-sized companies and small shops in disaster-hit areas, as a result of which many such areas remain deserted.

Taxpayers accepted tax hikes over a 25-year period to cover disaster recovery efforts because they sympathized with residents of disaster-stricken regions -- not because they wanted to help make Tokyo taxation offices quake-resistant.

Before the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took over the reins of government in September 2009, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had compared corporations that offer lucrative post-retirement jobs to bureaucrats who once supervised them to termites and demanded that such "bugs" be exterminated. What the DPJ-led administration called "political leadership" has declined to the worst possible level. However, the Noda administration needs to now show leadership to contribute to the restoration of northeastern Japan, which has been devastated by the disasters. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)


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