Japan's tsunami reconstruction money spent on unrelated projects as communities struggle

Associated Press

SENDAI, Japan - Japan's government says about a quarter of its budget for reconstruction after the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster has been spent on unrelated projects, including subsidies for a contact lens factory and research whaling.

The audit documents released last week buttress complaints over shortcomings in the reconstruction effort. More than half the $148 billion budget has yet to be disbursed, stalled by indecision and bureaucracy. Meanwhile, nearly all the 340,000 people evacuated from the disaster zone remain uncertain whether, when and how they will ever resettle.

Many of the non-reconstruction-related projects loaded into the budget were included on the pretext they might contribute to Japan's economic revival. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda acknowledged Monday that that approach was a mistake.

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