Friday the Government of Japan moved explicitly from response to recovery. Since the crisis opened Japanese officials have, in accordance with long-time disaster response tradition, appeared in work jackets. Friday, they shifted back to business suits.
More substantively, the Prime Minister used a 43 minute press conference to announce the government’s recovery policy. You can view the press conference and hear a simultaneous English translation at http://nettv.gov-online.go.jp/eng/prg/prg2060.html. MONDAY UPDATE: The Prime Minister’s Office has released a provisional English translation of the news conference.
The Sunday Asahi Shimbun summarized this policy:
Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s blueprint for rebuilding the areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake will focus on safe housing, the fisheries industry and ecological technology.
“We will reconstruct with the dream of building a great Tohoku region and a great Japan,” Kan told a news conference Friday. “We hope our new city planning will become a model for the world.”
Kan said he intends to have new homes built on higher ground by leveling mountainous areas, with residents commuting to fishing ports and fisheries firms along the coast.
The idea of relocating housing from the lowlands to elevated areas was broached by Kimiaki Toda, mayor of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, who recently spoke with Kan over the phone.
Kan said eco-friendly features would be included when rebuilding, such as heating systems that use biomass energy, something Kan has been eager to promote. He also said welfare-oriented services and facilities would be a key feature of the new communities.
Kan plans to set up by April 11 a council of officials from the quake-hit regions and experts who will discuss city planning and other issues such as land utilization.
“I hope opposition parties will cooperate with the government so we can work together to develop reconstruction plans,” he said.
Nationalization of the devastated areas is expected to be a key topic for the panel because the work requires close coordination with affected municipalities and residents. Kan said the government will try to satisfy local authorities and landowners and thereby win their approval for its plans. (Further details on possible tax hikes and bond issues for reconstruction, including a “social solidarity” income tax increase that would exclude residents of the most affected areas.)
According to the Kyodo News Service, the recovery scheme will also involve significant government incentives for private sector investments. “The government intends to push forward with reconstruction of quake and tsunami affected areas under a private finance initiative in which private-sector funds will be capitalized to build and operate social infrastructure, government sources said Saturday.”
On April 4 the Bank of Japan released much more detail than usual for its first comprehensive survey of the national economy (Tankan) completed since the earthquake-and-tsunami-and-nuclear-emergency.
Kyodo News Agency reports, “On conditions in March, the post-quake index stood at plus 6 for large manufacturers, slightly lower than the pre-quake reading of plus 7. For major nonmanufacturers, however, the post-quake index came to plus 7, much stronger than the pre-quake index of plus 1… The breakdown figures also showed that the outlook index of small and medium-sized companies in all industries stood at minus 25 after the quake and minus 22 before it, compared with Friday’s reading of minus 23. The diffusion index represents the percentage of companies reporting favorable business conditions minus the percentage reporting an unfavorable environment.”
The Bank of Japan report and supportive data is available, in English, at http://www.boj.or.jp/en/statistics/tk/tankan03b.htm/