Eighteen months after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, nearly half of the post-disaster recovery budget has not been spent, and the authorities have funnelled vast sums into unrelated projects like sports stadiums and protection for its whaling fleets.
These were the damning findings of a new government audit; to compound them, another study has just revealed that a quarter of the nearly $239bn budget was used on projects that would not benefit anyone in the disaster zone.
The news has sparked outrage, not least because more than 325,000 people remain displaced in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis. But the anger is not new. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the mothers from the devastated city of Fukushima, furious at government inaction, led Japanese citizens in demanding the evacuation of children and their families trapped in radiation hot spots, and then in calling for relief and recovery.
Despite their heroic efforts, a year and a half after the catastrophe the government's response is still grossly inadequate. A number of hospitals in the area are still shut down, and 60% of applications from small business owners in the area seeking assistance to get back up and running have been denied.
These latest findings have put pressure on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who ran on a platform of transparency for public spending. He responded this week by vowing to "wring out" spending on unrelated projects and acknowledged that "the government has not done enough and has not done it adequately." For the hundreds of thousands still suffering in the aftermath of Japan’s triple catastrophe, this is too little, too late.
Sources: New York Times, Avaaz, Guardian