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PM says Japan facing 'crisis within crisis'

22 april 2011, 18:41
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Friday it is his "destiny" to serve during "a crisis within a crisis" as the tsunami and quake-hit nation battles the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, AFP reports.

The Fukushima power plant has been leaking radiation since it was hit by the massive March 11 quake and tsunami in Japan's worst post-war disaster which has wiped whole towns off the map and left more than 27,000 people dead or missing.

"This crisis is not just one crisis. This is a crisis within a crisis," Kan told a news conference.

"Our country has been faced with a lot of issues for the past 20 years. Economic growth has been in the doldrums. The number of suicides has not declined" and stayed above 30,000 annually for years, he said.

"We have been experiencing a crisis. Then the crisis of the great disaster and the nuclear power accident came. We regard this crisis as happening within a crisis. And we are required to resolve the two crises at the same time."

The cabinet Friday approved a four-trillion-yen ($49-billion) special budget to help reconstruction and Kan said it was likely that the government would need to make a bond issue to finance a second supplementary disaster budget.

"The dominant view -- and I believe it myself -- is that the second extra budget for full-fledged restoration will be sizeable," Kan said, adding the government hoped to finish building 30,000 temporary housing units by the end of May.

"It will be necessary to issue Japanese government bonds to cover the funds needed for reconstruction."

Japan has the industrialised world's biggest debt, at around 200 percent of gross domestic product, after years of pump-priming measures by governments trying in vain to arrest the economy's long decline.

The government said the first extra budget would be financed by diverting some funds originally aimed at supporting the pension programme and child allowances and slashing plans to cancel highway tolls.

Japan has said the cost of rebuilding could be as much as 25 trillion yen.

Asked whether he was willing to step down once the path to recovery has been laid out, Kan said it was his "destiny" to serve at a time of such disasters.

By Hiroshi Hiyama

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