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Issue #1507      29 June 2011

Japan

Reconstruction law may help promote deregulation

A basic law for post-disaster reconstruction, paving the way for further deregulation under the guise of revitalisation of the Tohoku region, was enacted at an Upper House plenary session on June 20, with a majority vote of the Democratic, Liberal Democratic, Komei, People’s New, and Social Democratic parties.

At a special committee meeting on quake reconstruction held prior to the House of Councillors plenary meeting, Yamashita Yoshiki, representing the Japanese Communist Party, expressed opposition to the enactment of the law by saying, “Disaster victims should be the key players in the reconstruction process. Restoring their living conditions must be the first task in reconstruction.”

Yamashita pointed out that the law deeply reflects a “new growth strategy” for major corporations endorsed by the government. He expressed his concern that it will promote large-scale farming and fishing as well as the deregulation of corporate activities in the disaster-stricken areas.

He also warned that the law will pave the way for a consumption tax hike under the pretence of funding reconstruction efforts.

At the special committee meeting on June 16, Komine Takao, professor at the Graduate School of Hosei University, proposed that “corporate skills, energy, and funds” be injected into the agricultural and fishery industries in Tohoku. “Corporate employees’ work ethos can be applied” to those sectors, he insisted.

The law stipulates that the national government establishes a “basic policy” for reconstruction and that local governments are “responsible for taking measures” in accordance with it.

Yamashita pointed out that the law requires local governments to wait for the introduction of the national policy conducting full-scale reconstruction work and must prioritise the national policy over the actual needs at the local level.

Meanwhile, Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) President Utsunomiya Kenji issued a statement on June 15 expressing concerns over local governments that have stopped payments of welfare benefits to victims of the March 11 disaster who received emergency donations.

Minamisoma and Iwaki cities in Fukushima Prefecture stopped paying welfare benefits to 150 households, including disaster-related donations and compensation payments for nuclear damages they received as income.

The Welfare Ministry sent a notice to local governments on May 2 urging them to “take into full account disaster victims’ dire conditions” and avoid a systematic classification of donations as income.

The JFBA statement demands that the government redress municipalities’ actions that do not meet its instruction.

The National Association for Safeguarding People’s Life and Health (Zenseiren) on May 20 made representations to the national government, urging it to order municipalities to not recognise donations as income. Local Zenseiren branches in disaster-affected areas have made similar representations to their local governments.

Japan Press Weekly  

Next article – The Lie Behind the Afghan War

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