Government, what would we do without the crooks in it?
An accounting released last week by Japan’s Board of Audit, an independent agency, also revealed that about half of the country’s reconstruction budget of 19 trillion yen (nearly $239 billion) has yet to be spent amid confusion and indecision over rebuilding strategies in the wake of the catastrophes in March 2011.
The audits have cast a harsh light on the bureaucratic morass slowing Japan’s reconstruction effort, made worse by outlays of money to the unrelated projects seen by many as a throwback to the country’s days of unrestrained pork-barrel spending. The revelations are an embarrassment for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, whose Democratic Party promised to make public spending more transparent when it came to power in 2009.
Among the projects that secured a slice of the reconstruction budget, according to the agency, are 330 million yen (about $4.1 million) in fixes to a sports stadium in central Tokyo; 500 million yen (almost $6.3 million) to build roads in Okinawa, over 1,000 miles from the disaster zone; and 2.3 billion yen (almost $29 million) toward measures to protect Japan’s whaling fleet from environmental activists.
A separate audit by Yoshimitsu Shiozaki, an expert in urban planning from Kobe University who looked at 9.2 trillion yens’ worth (over $115 billion) of spending, found that a quarter of that amount was allocated to projects unlikely to directly benefit anyone in the disaster zone.
The local news media have reported on details of the spending with increasing fervor. Some reports say that subsidies were given to a contact lens factory in central Japan, also beyond the disaster zone, for example, and that 500 million yen (about $6.3 million) was allocated to help explore exporting nuclear technology to Vietnam.