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2012年5月27日 (日)

福島の復興 地域再生へ国が一層の支援を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 27, 2012)
Central govt must redouble Fukushima rebuilding efforts
福島の復興 地域再生へ国が一層の支援を(5月26日付・読売社説)

Efforts to resuscitate Fukushima Prefecture, hit hard by a nuclear power station crisis in addition to the Great East Japan Earthquake, have made little headway. We strongly urge the government to make greater efforts to support the prefecture and give greater consideration to the adversities the prefecture's local governments face.

Based on the special measures law for the reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture that was enacted in March, the government has been formulating basic policies for the prefecture's rebuilding projects.

The policies will include wide-ranging support measures, such as the return of evacuees, health checkups for them, medical and social welfare services and promotion of local industries. They are to be endorsed by the Cabinet in June.

The situation of Fukushima Prefecture, which still has a number of areas with high radiation levels, is graver than those of other disaster-stricken prefectures.

About 160,000 residents of disaster areas in Fukushima Prefecture are still living as evacuees in other parts of the prefecture or even outside the prefecture, with seven town and village government offices carrying out their administrative functions in the offices of other local entities.


Idea of 'temporary towns'

Restoration of local infrastructure to enable evacuated victims to return to their homes must be achieved as early as possible. To this end, it is imperative for the central government to engage more actively in restoration and rebuilding projects in the prefecture.

When the Reconstruction Agency decided on the first allocation of reconstruction subsidies for disaster-stricken regions in early March, local governments expressed strong dissatisfaction over what they criticized as excessively stringent standards for making assessments for the subsidy payments.

Some improvements seem to have been made in the second allocation of subsidies on Friday. It is important for the central government to hold detailed consultations with affected local governments from the early phases of reconstruction schemes in Fukushima Prefecture and other disaster-hit regions.

Tomioka, Okuma and two other towns in the prefecture have announced the idea of temporarily shifting their administrative offices and schools to areas outside their borders to establish "temporary towns."
Due to the nuclear crisis, the four towns have been designated no-entry zones under the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Law, meaning residents cannot return home in the near future.

The municipal government of Iwaki, a city where the temporary towns may be located, however, is concerned about possible problems, such as shortages of residential land, traffic congestion stemming from rises in the city's population and increased pressure on public services like garbage collection. The result is that talks for implementing the temporary town idea have been proceeding with difficulty.

The temporary towns, an unprecedented project, are an important option for rebuilding the disaster victims' livelihoods while maintaining the existing community bonds of the disaster-wrecked areas' residents.


Job security an urgent task

If agreement is obtained from a sufficient number of residents, the central and prefectural governments should quickly step in to coordinate, instead of leaving matters to the municipalities concerned, extending financial assistance to help effect the temporary town projects.

According to demographic estimates as of October last year that the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry released in April, the population of Fukushima Prefecture registered a record drop of 1.93 percent from a year earlier, the sharpest year-on-year decline across the country.

To stem the outflow of Fukushima Prefecture residents, it is extremely urgent to boost employment opportunities in the prefecture.

The prefecture should take advantage of its geographic position as the Tohoku region prefecture nearest to Tokyo, while also making the most of preferential arrangements under the disaster restoration special zone system, such as reduced or eliminated corporate taxes, to attract and nurture companies from outside the prefecture.

The central government's basic policies for assisting the prefecture will likely incorporate steps for constructing a medical research and development hub.

On top of efforts to accelerate nuclear decontamination operations for the sake of local residents' health, the central government should prioritize development of the prefecture's medical field from a medium and long-range point of view.

In addition to improving the prefecture's existing medical facilities and ensuring an adequate number of medical doctors and nurses, the government should also build cutting-edge medical centers in Fukushima Prefecture.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 26, 2012)
(2012年5月26日01時03分  読売新聞)


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