Posts Tagged Government

In Japan, the same old problems – The Washington Post

So  Japan’s  debt will be 300+% of GDP by 2020, but nothing to worry but because 9%% of the bonds are domestically owned….

The government will also have to borrow even more money, issuing bonds. Over the next five years, Japan will need to marshal some $250 billion for reconstruction. The country is not on the verge of a debt crisis, because some 95 percent of its bonds are domestically owned, but the demands of rebuilding could push Japan increasingly toward the foreign market.According to the calculations of Oguro and Sato, Japan would have had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 301 percent by 2020 had the disaster never occurred. Now, they project a ratio of 309 percent.

“It might be slight,” Sato said, “but the probability of government bankruptcy will increase.”

Macroeconomists who study disasters also acknowledge one variable that research doesn’t account for: government competence. Prime Minister Naoto Kan faces calls to use the disaster as a catalyst for long-delayed reforms, such as raising taxes, liberalizing trade, deregulating the energy sector and modernizing the archaic farming and fishing industries. But all of these steps face pockets of vocal opposition from politically powerful interest groups, and a brief period of post-disaster political unity has already given way to bickering. With even some in his own party pushing for Kan’s resignation, the prime minister has little political muscle.

And politicians fight over who can appear more generous to voters. Business as usual.

Though Japan’s parliament this month passed a $50 billion special budget, Japan will need several subsequent, and larger, special budgets to fund recovery in the disaster-hit area.

Kan’s government says the second budget could be ready by August.

But opposition parties, citing an urgency to deliver money to the battered region, want it to be ready by next month. Otherwise, they threaten, Kan will face a no-confidence vote. This could give Japan its seventh prime minister in six years.

“Japan is at a turning point,” Sato said. “What we need, ideally, is structural reform alongside reconstruction. But the other scenario is, there is no major reform. Then we will remain in a gloomy decade.”

via In Japan, the same old problems – The Washington Post.

Big words. But whether there is “reform” or not, I predict a gloomy decade if politcians have their way.

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Theme of the day – faith in government is waning

The following excerpts pretty much speak for themselves, but because this is the media speaking, take a large lump of salt with all this. I’ll add my usual pearls of wisdom after you’ve read the quotes.

“It breaks my heart that they did nothing for the children,” said Sadako Monma, herself a mother of two, who has run the Soramame center for 15 years. “Our answer was to stop waiting for someone to help us.”

Slow action by the government has set off a revolt among the usually orderly ranks of Japanese bureaucrats.

“I don’t believe the government,” said Kanako Nishikata, 33, a mother of two elementary school children here. “The air here is dirty. The soil is dirty. They are leaving Fukushima to suffer and perish.”

via In Japan, Fukushima Parents Grow Angry Over Radiation –

The figure is equivalent to 20 times the annual radiation limit for ordinary people. When releasing the statement, the ministry also did not touch on any measures to decontaminate school facilities.

Parents voiced complaints and concern. “It is a figure too high for children,” said one parent. “No specific measures have been presented,” said another.

The city of Koriyama has decided to remove top soil from school playgrounds on its own. Even so, the central government brushed aside the local government’s move. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, “Based on the guideline of the education and science ministry, there is no need for removal.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Preparation saved one island’s residents | The Japan Times Online

Is there a lesson here? I think there is. Underline it.

none of the approximately 80 residents on the island was killed by the tsunami, thanks to a disaster prevention map and an evacuation route created more than half a century ago.They had also prepared for the possibility of disaster by conducting emergency drills over and over.In the scant 30 minutes that elapsed between the quake and the arrival of the massive tsunami, town officials knocked on the doors of every home, urging residents to evacuate.Using a special 2-meter-wide evacuation route that local residents had cleared through a bamboo grove, they fled to a local elementary and junior high school that was built on higher ground.The disaster prevention map was drawn up with the help of Toyohiko Miyagi, a geology professor at Tohoku Gakuin University in Miyagi Prefecture. The map listed an evacuation route for every resident on the island.”As an island, we can’t depend on the government for a quick rescue and aid operation in emergencies,” one of the residents said.

via Preparation saved one island’s residents | The Japan Times Online.

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The Struggle for a New Japan | The Diplomat

Another article cautiously praising the Japanese government’s response to the recent disaster (although after quickly glancing through the contents, it looks to be little more than a re-hash of what Karel von Wolferen wrote the other day):

There are three things that stand out about the current Japanese response that distinguish it sharply from the last time the country suffered a comparable shock—the Kobe earthquake of 1995—and which underline just how much has changed since then.The first difference is the considerable lengths that the Kan government has taken to keep the Japanese people informed about the crisis and its efforts to deal with it. The Prime Minister and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano have been offering regular press briefings as the crisis has unfolded, in sharp contrast with the hapless Maruyama government, whose initial response in 1995 was marked by indecision and apparent confusion.

via The Struggle for a New Japan | The Diplomat.

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Govt may spray resin on N-plant / Sticky material should keep down radiation : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)

Commenter on this blog, Aldritch Parsons, suggested on March 30 some kind of tent of dome over the reactors to contain or limit the diffusion of radioactive materials. And today, I read on the Yomiuri (via the very useful

The government will likely go ahead with a plan to spray resin inside the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which it hopes will contain the spread of radioactive substances, sources said Wednesday.

The government has begun full-fledged discussions on different plans to stop the spread of radioactive substances that have been leaking continuously from damaged reactors at the plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

In addition to efforts to cool the reactors and spent nuclear fuel pools by TEPCO and the Self-Defense Forces, the government has asked for aid from private companies and other nations, including the United States, to deal with the accident.

It is believed spraying resin would minimize the spread of radioactive substances, which would allow repair work at the plant to proceed more smoothly, the sources said. Efforts to restore the reactors’ cooling functions have seesawed repeatedly, with the detection Wednesday of radioactive iodine-131 at levels 3,355 times the legal limit in seawater near the plant being the latest wrench in the works.

Spraying resin on debris inside the plant could begin as early as Thursday, the government sources said. The operation would last for about two weeks, they said.

The plan involves using a remote-controlled robot to spray resin over about 80,000 square meters inside the 120,000-square-meter facility. The areas to be sprayed were contaminated by radiation from debris scattered by several hydrogen gas explosions in the days after the March 11 earthquake.

via Govt may spray resin on N-plant / Sticky material should keep down radiation : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri).

And VOA’s Steve Herman, back in Seoul after 2 weeks covering the tsunami/earthquake/Fukushima disaster in Tohoku and Tokyo, tweets:

Officials: Unmanned, remote-controlled vehicle will spray the resin beginning Thursday “on a trial basis.”

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Japan orders immediate safety upgrade at nuclear plants

Nuclear power stations in Japan - map

21:30 JST March 30: Japan ordered an immediate safety upgrade at its 55 nuclear power plants on Wednesday in its first acknowledgement that standards were inadequate when an earthquake and tsunami wrecked a facility nearly three weeks ago, sparking the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

via Japan orders immediate safety upgrade at nuclear plants. Also on Yahoo News.

I feel like saying “Bolting the door after the horse has gone”, but I suppose it is not completely a waste of time. Can the government enforce its own regulations, though? TEPCO were substandard in their safety procedures but they were granted their renewed license anyway.

Kansai Denryoku beat the government to it: they announced their across-the-board upgrading and strengthening and safety review earlier this week.

It was also pointed out to me by my better half that another reactor on the coast, further north at Onagawa, has not had any trouble at all. It is not owned by TEPCO but by Tohoku Electric Power company.

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58% do not approve of govt handling of nuke crisis at Fukushima plant+

What about TEPCO? Their handling of their own reactors has in my opinion been a lot worse than the government’s. The government does not manage Fukushima nuclear power plant, TEPCO does.

Fukushima plant+ AP – TOKYO, March 27 Kyodo—A survey released Sunday showed that 58.2 percent of respondents do not approve of the governments handling of the nuclear crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, while 57.9 percent said they approve of its handling of disaster-victim support in northeastern Japan hit by the March 11 catastrophic earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

via URGENT: 58% do not approve of govt handling of nuke crisis at Fukushima plant+.

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“The original goal was INDIVIDUAL freedom”

These days, capitalism has a bad name. Is capitalism evil? Is it an idea whose time has come and gone? Surely we need big government these days?

Artist and journalist Jon Rappaport examines the original purposes of the U.S. founding fathers and of the Constitution, and produces one of the most succinct appraisals of the present state of affairs that I have read in a long while. Unlike many other writers, even the economists who know their stuff, Jon never loses sight of the key goal: individual liberty. How are we doing on that, by the way? Is it even still a target on the radar?

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