Kan needs to display leadership, show clear vision for disaster relief policy
A newly established advisory committee to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, tasked to work out a vision on countermeasures for the Great East Japan Earthquake, is divided over how to secure financial resources for these procedures and other important topics. It is highly doubtful whether the panel, headed by National Defense Academy President Makoto Iokibe, will work out effective and efficient countermeasures.
The panel is comprised of prominent figures, but its discussions will be too abstract unless the government coordinates views between the committee and ministries and agencies concerned and facilitates the panel's communications with local governments and residents of disaster-hit areas and its discussions with experts from various fields. The prime minister should clarify the purpose and mission of the panel to map out a clear vision.
Iokibe's proposal at the outset of the panel's first meeting that a disaster-relief tax be created stirred controversy between members, forcing the group to shelve the issue of financial resources for the time being.
It is true that Iokibe's proposal triggered much needed discussions between ruling and opposition parties on how to secure financial resources for quake-relief and restoration measures. However, the panel's primary mission is to show a vision on disaster countermeasures that can persuade taxpayers to accept tax hikes. Kan is to blame for the confusion within the panel because the prime minister, who set up the group, has failed to show his clear policy on the issue in the first place.
Concern has been raised that the panel could be isolated within the government. Since no bureaucrat is on the panel, ministries and agencies concerned could question the effectiveness of disaster-relief and restoration measures worked out by the panel and reject it. Although the governors of three quake-hit prefectures in the Tohoku region are members of the committee, it is highly questionable how far they can represent opinions and requests by local municipalities and residents.
On the other hand, a subcommittee on specific measurers is comprised of many experts in disaster prevention and regional revitalization.
It is feared that the two entities' discussions will overlap as the division of their roles remains unclear.
In order to prevent the committee from falling apart, it is necessary for the government to not only clarify its role in relevant legislation but also steer it in an appropriate manner. The panel, deputy chief Cabinet secretaries who represent a liaison council between ministries and agencies and top officials of the subcommittee should regularly consult with each other to facilitate their communications and share their common objectives.
Some constructive discussions are under way, including those on a proposal by Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai on a specific vision on the restoration of disaster-ravaged areas. The situation varies depending on each disaster-hit area -- from coastal regions and the plains to areas where residents have been evacuated following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Panel members as well as government officials are required to reflect these communities' requests and opinions on the disaster's countermeasures.
The government will draft a second supplementary budget as early as this summer to finance the disaster countermeasures. The committee says it will make proposals on such measures by the end of June, but it is highly doubtful whether it is in time for the government's compilation of the extra budget draft.
An advisory panel on relief and restoration measures set up following the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995 that devastated Kobe and surrounding areas made its first set of proposals less than two weeks after its first meeting.
Prime Minister Kan must be aware of his responsibility to clearly show the scope and the order of priority of themes that the committee should discuss in order to help it propose effective and efficient countermeasures.
毎日新聞 2011年4月27日 2時32分