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Gov't may keep Reconstruction Agency for 10 more years

The government on Thursday proposed postponing the planned disbandment of the Reconstruction Agency for 10 years until March 2031 to facilitate recovery in areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Under the plan, the agency will also continue to provide aid for five more years to areas affected by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011, which triggered core meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The plan was proposed to a panel on reconstruction comprised of experts and the governors of the three hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. It is expected to be approved by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe within the year and be submitted to the Diet next year.
"We have shown our basic view on finances and the legal framework," said reconstruction minister Kazunori Tanaka. "Based on various opinions from the panel members, we will continue to work toward realizing the plan."
Fukushima Gov Masao Uchibori expressed satisfaction with the plan, saying it "reflects the reality of our prefecture" as the government is continuing to lead efforts to address problems in connection with the nuclear crisis.
But Miyagi Gov Yoshihiro Murai said the ending of aid for areas damaged by the quake and tsunami in five years is "too harsh."
Iwate Gov Takuya Tasso shared the concern, saying, "I hope it will not be a strict deadline after which everything will be stopped."
The Reconstruction Agency was established in February 2012 as the central control point for efforts to rebuild from the triple disasters and had been scheduled to disband at the end of fiscal 2020.
During the proposed extended period, the agency will continue working on a variety of tasks including decommissioning of the Fukushima plant, combating radiation-tainted water and helping residents return.
It will also provide psychological support to people affected by the earthquake and tsunami and review the progress in reconstruction efforts after five years.
The special budget for rebuilding, which is separate from the regular account, and subsidies for helping affected municipalities will be maintained.
The central government spent 25.5 trillion yen ($234 billion) for reconstruction in the first five-year period through fiscal 2015, while securing 6.5 trillion yen for another five years with part of the costs shouldered by relevant municipalities.
As of early October, there were still about 49,000 people who remain displaced from their hometowns as a result of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, compared with 470,000 estimated shortly after the triple disaster occurred.


© KYODO
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