22 Apr 2011

Japanese cabinet approves emergency budget

6:00 pm on 22 April 2011

The Japanese cabinet has approved emergency budget spending of about $US50 billion to help the country recover from a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Nearly 28,000 are dead or missing after the disaster which devastated much of northeast Japan and crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on 11 March.

The damage from the 9.0-magnitude quake which triggered the tsunami has been estimated at more than $US300 billion, the BBC reports.

Some $48.9 billion will be spent on temporary housing, disposing of the wreckage along the coast, and repairing ports and roads.

Japan's national debt is already the biggest of any country in the industrialised world as a proportion of economic output.

Although future emergency budgets are likely to require more borrowing, this one will be paid for by spending cuts.

The budget still needs approval from parliament later in April and could be implemented in May.

On Thursday, the government made it illegal to enter a 20km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear reactor. Cooling systems were knocked out in the disaster and radiation has been leaking from the plant.

It is not clear how many people are still living in the evacuation zone, but reports said police had counted at least 60 families.