Reconstruction from Japan's disaster: A pile of pork
News On Japan via The Economist -- Nov 02
WHEN a huge emergency budget was enacted in June 2011, a few months after Japan's triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, at the last minute a line was jotted in, saying that the funds were not just for reconstruction. They were to "revitalise Japan".
Unsurprisingly in the context of Japanese politics, that tiny sentence opened the floodgates to a river of pork-barrel spending. A recent government audit has shown that about a quarter of the $150 billion-odd that has been budgeted for the emergency has gone to projects that seem to have little to do with rebuilding the north-eastern coastline, where more than 300,000 people still live in temporary accommodation. Economic "revitalisation", it seems, has run the gamut from bolstering supply chains (sensible) to promoting nuclear-power research (insensitive under the circumstances) to protecting whalers from hostile environmentalists (downright ludicrous).
Cue outrage from politicians of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who claim the government has used the disaster funds to promote its own interests. Even though, reportedly, it was the LDP who demanded the revitalisation clause be inserted in the first place. Cue a belated pledge by the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, to "wring out" the more egregious misspending, and cue too apologies to the people in the disaster areas.
A collection of materials related to a 17th century mission sent by a Japanese feudal lord to Europe and the world's oldest autographic diary left 10 centuries ago by a Japanese regent have been selected for the UNESCO Memory of the World registry, the Japanese education ministry said Wednesday. (Global Post )
Almost 1,500 people were transported to hospitals by ambulance due to heatstroke last week, up sharply from 942 in the preceding week, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Tuesday. (Japan Times )
Among about 200,000 traffic signals nationwide, 16 percent are being used beyond the end of the expected lifetime of their electrical systems and some have even toppled over due to age, according to the National Police Agency. (Yomiuri )
In May, Akira Ikoma, the editor of a guide to men's entertainment called Ore no Tabi (My Journey), said that "Abenomics" had caused a spike in prices at high-end soapland bathhouses in Tokyo. However, the same editor tells Shukan Post (June 28) that the initiative is not impacting the low-end market in the same way. (Tokyo Reporter )
Tokyo District Court decided on Monday to open planned examinations of three witnesses who are former senior members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult and now death-row inmates, during an upcoming trial of another former senior Aum member. (Jiji Press )