Two years after the pacific coast of Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake and tsunami, many people are still struggling to recover.
to oversee the rebuilding of areas devastated by the massive
earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, Japan created a year ago a new
agency called the Reconstruction Agency. The agency was expected to
guide related government agencies (whose administration is often
vertically divided) and coordinate long-term recovery efforts.
Toba explained that initial expectations for the new agency were high.
Before the formation of the new agency, Toba said, if he had plans
for the city’s future, he faced an alphabet soup of bureaucracies. “If I
have an issue with schools, I’d have to talk to the Ministry of
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; if my problems are
related to handling of rubble, I’d have to go to the Ministry of the
Environment. It was getting too much. So they told us the Reconstruction
Agency, with authority to guide other agencies, could be a one-stop
shop for local governments like ours that could help us find resolution
In reality, though, “there isn’t a single thing the
Reconstruction Agency has done to make our life easier,” said the
outspoken mayor. “Now I just have extra government agency--the
Reconstruction Agency--that I need to talk to.”
administrative disorganization should surprise no one who has ever
worked with government agencies in Japan or in the United States.
But what made things worse was that nobody from the Reconstruction
Agency appeared willing to stand up to other government agencies, let
alone to fight for constituents like Mayor Toba. “People from the
Reconstruction Agency came to visit us in Rikuzentakata often. But they
had the gall to tell us not to be so unreasonable with our demands,” he
explained. “So, the mission of the Reconstruction Agency turns out to be
persuading us to back down, not persuading the other government
agencies to do their job.”