Sat, Nov 05, 2011 - Page 7 News List

US task force lays out priorities for post-quake Japan

AFP, Washington

Japan should reduce tax rates, shore up its nuclear safety credibility and set up special economic zones to lure investors as an optimal way of bouncing back from this year’s quake-tsunami disaster, a US task force said in findings released on Thursday.

As the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) issued its report, US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides hailed it as a roadmap in support of the Asian nation’s reconstruction and recovery and said the world needed to recognize that “Japan is open for business.”

AFTERMATH

CSIS members spent much of the last six months in Japan observing the aftermath of the March 11 natural disaster and subsequent nuclear crisis and outlined scores of recommendations on issues such as disaster preparedness, economics, health, nuclear energy and civil society.

Among the most urgent was the call for an independent, international study of Japan’s low-dose, long-term radiation problem sparked by the leak of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, and implementation of better health steps and communication methods in the face of such a crisis in the future.

PREPAREDNESS

“We don’t really have a clear sense of the scientific standards for safety, nor do we understand particularly well the questions around adequate preparedness for crises, and how to communicate and sustain public trust in the midst of the crisis,” Stephen Morrison, leader of the CSIS health working group, told a briefing to mark the report’s release.

“We think that there is a serious trust and credibility problem, and that an independent entity of this kind could ... greatly advance our knowledge on those key areas where I said we do not have answers at hand today,” Morrison said.

ILLUMINATING

On the economic front, the report said that the disaster “illuminated several challenges Japan was already facing, such as deflation, an aging society, and massive public debt,” and said the country must now urgently address the “difficult balancing act” between stimulus and debt reduction.

The report recommended “an ambitious trade liberalization agenda,” reducing corporate and individual tax rates and adjusting the consumption tax rate to alleviate fiscal pressures.

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