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Asia Minute: Budgeting for Natural Disasters — and Recovery

Jeff Schmaltz

Lawmakers are facing calls for increased government spending because of the cost of recovery from a series of disasters. That could be a headline here in Hawai‘i, but it’s a story this week from Japan.

Japanese lawmakers are back in session this week, and one of the first orders of business is focused on natural disasters — and the price of recovery.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants more government spending — the parliamentary term would be a supplementary budget to the tune of more than 8 billion dollars.

About 6.5 billion of that would go to communities hit by disasters in recent months. That includes massive flash flooding this summer around Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures.

Hokkaido in northern Japan was rocked by a powerful earthquake last month, and recovery has been uneven. More than 40 people were killed, more than 200 buildings destroyed or damaged — mostly by landslides after the quake.

Osaka was hit by an earthquake in June, and last month the area was slammed by the strongest storm to hit the country in 25 years.

In all of these cases, roads, other infrastructure, commercial buildings and farmland need attention — and funding.

Credit Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff / Flickr
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

And in an echo of a lingering concern in Hawai‘i, the Japanese government also wants to spend more than 700 million dollars to install air conditioning in more of the nation’s classrooms.

The Abe administration plans to pay for all of this with additional government debt—and hopes to have the budget passed by early next month.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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