The Reconstruction Design Council has submitted a proposal to Prime Minister Naoto Kan that talks about "keeping our hearts as one with the people in the areas affected by the quake and tsunami, and to light the flame of hope in those areas through national solidarity and mutual support."
The proposal puts forth such lofty principles as "the basis of reconstruction efforts should place local communities at its center," and that we should "pursue the possibilities of an economic society that would lead the way into a possible future." The proposal also includes various prescriptions for reconstruction.
Specifically, the council proposes options for rebuilding communities that reduce the risk of disasters and plans for reviving industries in the affected areas. The options are designed to fit the actual situation in each area. The plan also proposes setting "special reconstruction zones" to make best use of local communities' abilities. The idea to create locations for developing renewable energy that nurture industries of the 21st century in Fukushima Prefecture is also very good.
Some directions in this proposal overlap with areas that we have been seeking.
However, more than a few points seem to require deeper thought.
Take the matter of land, for example. The complex web of ownership rights needs to be sorted out soon, as it is obstructing reconstruction. The proposal sidesteps this thorny problem by saying "necessary measures must be considered," and that government procurement of land is "problematic."
The proposal includes using special zoning, but would it not have been better to offer a more specific solution for a breakthrough?
Also, we cannot see how the affected local governments will be able to actually apply these proposals. A road map that lays out which project should take priority, and what kind of preparation is necessary, is essential.
If not, local governments have no choice but to let central government ministries decide for them when to start a particular project or how to design a particular system. And if that happens, the principle of putting the local communities first is just an empty promise.
On the other hand, the proposal includes a plan to re-energize and revitalize the fishing industry by drawing in private sector funds.
This resulted from strong lobbying by Yoshihiro Murai, the governor of Miyagi Prefecture. Even so, some local fishermen question the plan or are against it.
In reality, many issues must be overcome. The Reconstruction Design Council is expected to have a say in the usual ministry-led process of coordinating the many conflicting interests of interested parties and point to a new path.
The council chairman, Makoto Iokibe, decided against delaying a final recommendation to the end of the year, as originally planned, and instead moved up the schedule to include proposals at this juncture. This might have been due to a sense of urgency created by Prime Minister Naoto Kan's offer to resign, for it was Kan who initiated the creation of the council.
It is true the Kan administration has wavered in the process of selecting the minister for reconstruction. The future role of the Reconstruction Design Council is also unclear.
Although the proposal takes into account the difficult conditions in the disaster-hit areas and opened up some hope, it needs to be deepened. We intend to keep a sharp eye on the proceedings, lest reconstruction efforts end up falling into the trap of coordinating various vested interests.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 26