4 Jun 2013

Japan disaster funds spent elsewhere

5:43 am on 4 June 2013

The government in Japan has admitted $US1 billion earmarked to help people hit by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 was spent in areas unaffected by the disaster.

A report on Monday said the projects ranged from counting sea turtles on semi-tropical beaches, to the promotion of cheese and wine events far away from the disaster zone.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper, surveyed councils around the country to find out what happened to the Y200 billion that Tokyo set aside in 2011 for job creation after the disaster.

The paper said Y108.5 billion was spent in 38 prefectures that were outside the stricken northeast.

In a town in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima, about 1300km from the devastated city of Ishinomaki, Y3 million was spent on the protection and observation of sea turtles.

The welfare ministry on Monday defended its spending, saying the money was disbursed around the country for good reason.

"Those who were hit by the disaster were widely spread across the nation at that time and supply chains (for manufacturing industries) were disrupted," said a ministry official.

According to the Asahi, other projects included the production of a restaurant guidebook in Aichi, central Japan, and the publication of leaflets encouraging safe use of the internet and mobile phones in nearby Mie.

More than 18,000 people died when the tsunami hit northeast Japan in March 2011.