Media Mix, April 26, 2015

Still from "Akahama Rock'n Roll"

Still from “Akahama Rock’n Roll”

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about a town in Iwate Prefecture that is struggling with the central government over a proposed seawall. Yesterday, several media reported that the government will definitely ask Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures to take on part of the burden for reconstruction after the initial five-year budget is up in 2016. Apparently, the government was going to implement another tax increase to pay for further reconstruction but has decided not to. In reality, the portion that local governments will bear isn’t much–only 2.5 percent. Under normal circumstances, as with highway construction, the local burden is usually about a third. But the total budget in this case is ¥5.8 trillion, which is bound to increase in the future, and even a fraction of that could prove to be too expensive for prefectures and municipalities, which are already spending their own meager funds on reconstruction.

Some media speculate that faced with the extra burden, local governments will invariably cut back on their respective reconstruction projects, especially with the ongoing shortage of construction materials and labor, which is being exacerbated by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The thing is, many of the bigger projects were initiated by the central government, like the seawall discussed in the documentary Akahama Rock’n Roll, and it isn’t clear if localities are expected to assume part of those costs as well. As shown in the movie, certain localities don’t like some of the projects in the first place, so making them pay for them doesn’t make sense. Of course, prefectural and municipal governments depend a great deal on money from Tokyo to keep their operations running and the proper wheels greased, and there isn’t always a great deal of thought given to whether or not certain projects are actually necessary. But in this case, whole communities need to be rebuilt, so it’s doubly important that the money be spent wisely and in line with residents’ needs. As it stands, it sounds as if the central government offered the regions affected by the disaster lots of help without fully figuring out each area’s specific requirements, and now they are going to stick them with a bill.

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