News / Asia

Japan Tsunami Damage Cost Could Top $300 Billion

A stuffed toy is seen amidst rubble at an area hit by earthquake and tsunami in Kesennuma, north Japan, March 17, 2011
A stuffed toy is seen amidst rubble at an area hit by earthquake and tsunami in Kesennuma, north Japan, March 17, 2011

Multimedia

Henry Ridgwell

Japan’s government says the total cost of the damage caused by the tsunami could reach 25 trillion yen – or U.S. $309 billion.

Reconstruction could boost economy

Entire towns were wiped out when the wave hit on March 11.

Farms, factories, roads, railways and electricity lines were destroyed, while almost half a million people have been made homeless. Despite the destruction, many Japanese people hope the reconstruction effort might turn out to help the Japanese economy.

If the government’s estimate proves correct, it would make the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast coast of Japan one of the costliest natural disasters in history.

The predicted cost – up to US $309 billion – includes the destruction to housing, businesses and infrastructure in the seven worst-hit prefectures. But that may only be part of the story.

Tokyo is the beating heart of the world’s third-largest economy. This global financial hub is enduring rolling blackouts because of damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The business costs of the power disruptions are not counted in this estimate.

All facets' of economic life affected

Former Japanese finance minister Makoto Utsumi – now president of the Japan Credit Rating Agency – says the coming months will be tough.

“As far as the short term is concerned, of course we have a serious challenge before us,” Utsumi said. “So probably we would suffer one, two or three quarters of negative growth. But in the long term I believe this will be good for the Japanese economy, through the active reconstruction, the stimulus for the economy, would push up our growth for the coming 3 or 4 years.”

The tsunami's aftermath is affecting every facet of economic life.

Tokyo’s Tsukiji-shijo is one of the largest fish and vegetable markets in the world. Every day tens of thousands of tons of produce from Japan and around the world are traded in these vast warehouses.

The United States and several other countries have banned some Japanese produce imports because of concerns about possible contamination from the nuclear plant.

Stallholders here worry that there could be far wider consequences for their businesses.

“It’s not just Fukushima. Other places like Chiba [next to Tokyo] and other prefectures are affected by the radiation, places where I do business. I’m really worried.”

International companies fleeing Tokyo

On the edge of the market, Hiro Masamoto runs a knife store catering to the fish traders. He is concerned about the future.

“I am worried. I don’t think we’ve seen the full effects yet. If customers stop coming, we’ll be in real trouble.”

Japan’s famous bullet trains are once again running from the capital to the tsunami-hit Tohoku region. Freeways heading north are opening up again to normal traffic.

But many international companies have moved staff out of Tokyo, fearing a potential catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Countless seminars, meetings and events have been cancelled. Tourist numbers have plummeted.

Sun will rise again

Growth remains weak – Japan’s economy only recently emerged from recession, in 2009.

But former Japanese Finance Minister Makoto Utsumi insists this sun will rise once more for the Japanese economy.

“For the reconstruction of our economy, not only regional reconstruction but national reconstruction, I think we have money, we have know-how, we have technology, capability, and we have the courage to face these difficulties and finally we will succeed in making the region and the country brilliant again,” Utsumi said.

Like Utsumi, many Japanese are determined that their country can repeat the economic miracle of the 1980s – this time turning catastrophe into growth.

With an estimated 25,000 people dead or missing, the human cost of the disaster is tragically clear.

It will be many months, if not years before the full extent of the damage to Japan’s economy is known.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid