“I can sum it up in two words — speed and flexibility — that are lacking,” Kubota said.
Showing a photograph of the now non-existent downtown, he said: “In 19 months, there have basically been no major changes. There is not one single new building yet.”
The government has pledged to spend ￥23 trillion over this decade on reconstruction and disaster prevention, ￥19 trillion of it within five years. However, more than half the reconstruction budget remains unspent, according to the government’s audit report.
Part of the problem is the central government’s strategy of managing the reconstruction from Tokyo instead of delegating it to provincial governments. At the same time, the local governments lack the staff and expertise for such major rebuilding.
The government “thinks it has to be in the driver’s seat,” Jun Iio, a government adviser and professor at Tokyo University, told a conference in Sendai. “Unfortunately the reconstruction process is long and only if the local residents can agree on a plan will they move ahead on reconstruction.”
“It is in this stage that creativity is needed for rebuilding,” he said.