Japan Spending Reconstruction Funds on Unrelated Projects: Audit

Posted October 31st, 2012 at 6:30 am (UTC-5)
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A recent audit conducted for the Japanese government has found that about a quarter of the funds meant for reconstruction following last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami has been spent on unrelated causes.

Japan's Board of Audit, a constitutionally mandated but independent agency, says parts of the $148 billion reconstruction budget went to projects such as road building in distant Okinawa and a contact lens factory in central Japan. It says nearly $29 million went toward measures to protect Japan's controversial whaling fleet from environmental activists.

Under increasing pressure, government officials have defended the non-reconstruction-related spending by arguing that economic benefits will eventually “trickle down” to the disaster zone. But Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda acknowledged this week that the government has “not done enough,” vowing that unrelated projects will be “wrung out” of the budget.

The report also says that more than half of the reconstruction budget has yet to be spent, partly because of government indecisiveness, mismanagement and bureaucracy. Analysts say the slow response means the government is not maximizing the effectiveness of the reconstruction budget.

Meanwhile, recovery efforts are slow at much of the area devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which led to a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant. Recent figures show that more than 325,000 of the 340,000 people who fled their homes are still displaced.

Japanese media reports have become increasingly critical of the government. The issue is a problem for Prime Minister Noda's Democratic Party, which came to power in 2009 on promises that it would improve government transparency.