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Economy

Japan to spend 3tn yen to repair aged and disaster-hit infrastructure

Quakes, floods and typhoons prompt three-year public works spree

The bridge linking Kansai International Airport on an artificial island off Osaka Bay with the mainland was severely damaged after a tanker ship crashed into it during a powerful typhoon that hit western Japan on Sept. 4.    © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japan's government has decided to spend over 3 trillion yen ($26.5 billion) on infrastructure repairs through March 2021, aiming to upgrade storm-ravaged and aged equipment.

A portion of more than 1 trillion yen will be incorporated in the draft budget for fiscal 2019, ending March 2020, to be worked out by the end of this month. This will increase the overall amount of public works spending next fiscal year by about 20% from the current period's initial budget, to about 7 trillion yen, the highest level in a decade.

Japan's public works spending has been on the decrease, but this will change due to the need to repair infrastructure that fell victim to this year's natural disasters.

The government conducted nationwide checks on aging or damaged infrastructure during the three months through November, after heavy rains and floods devastated western Japan and a series of quakes hit the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

A panel of cabinet ministers on Nov. 27 confirmed 132 existing infrastructure problems at airports, along rivers, at hospitals and with the power grid.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that by the end of the year his government will work out a three-year repair plan.

The checks covered emergency power supply systems and related equipment at Kansai Airport, which was shut down for several days in summer after bearing the brunt of Typhoon Jebi. Inspectors found some of the equipment to be installed in the basement, which exposed it to the flooding. The equipment will be repaired or moved to a higher area, and drainage will be enhanced. In addition, river embankment coverings will be raised to accommodate higher floodwaters.

Japan has steadily reduced the amount of public works spending on an initial budget basis since 1997, when such outlays peaked at 9.8 trillion yen. That year, some expressway construction projects were criticized for being wasteful.

But a lot of the country's infrastructure dates back to the 1960s, when Japan was experiencing rapid economic growth. Now many bridges, tunnels, ports and other structures that make commerce and people's lives easier are showing their age. About 25% of 730,000 bridges, 20% of 11,000 tunnels and over 30% of 10,000 sluices were over 50 years old as of this past March.

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