July 21, 2011 / 6:31 AM / 7 years ago

Japan plans additional $165 billion for reconstruction

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s government plans additional spending of 13 trillion yen ($165 billion) for reconstruction projects after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, on top of a combined 6 trillion yen already set aside in two extra budgets, a government source said on Thursday.

A construction vehicle from the U.S. Marines clears debris at Sendai airport which was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, in Miyagi Prefecture March 25, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Investors are counting on reconstruction spending to help the world’s third-largest economy pull out from a slump caused by the disasters and to resume moderate growth in the third quarter.

To raise the money, the government is considering issuing special bonds, scaling back other spending plans and selling national assets, said the source, who declined to be identified.

Assets the government could considering selling include shareholdings in NTT, Japan’s largest phone company, and Japan Tobacco, the nation’s largest cigarette maker, the Nikkei business daily said.

The government has yet to finalize the maturities for reconstruction bonds it will issue but the Ministry of Finance is planning on five-year bonds, while the government will consider raising taxes to repay them, the source said.

The markets had expected fresh spending beyond the first two extra budgets to exceed 10 trillion yen.

The 13 trillion yen would support projects worth a total of about 23 trillion to 25 trillion yen, the source said, with about 80 percent of those to be implemented over the next five years and the remainder to be completed within the following five years.

The Mainichi newspaper said the projects would include financial assistance to farmers in quake-hit areas, renewable energy development and the creation of special districts for rebuilding the fishing industry.

But the reconstruction plans do not include any spending, the source said, to address the crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, which has been leaking radiation since in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The government is likely to struggle to generate cash to help pay for Japan’s biggest rebuilding project since the period immediately after World War Two, as its ability to borrow is constrained by a debt pile already twice the size of the $5 trillion economy.

It avoided new borrowing when it funded the previous two extra budgets, by tapping fiscal reserves and reallocating spending.

A government advisory panel on reconstruction last month proposed a temporary increase in the corporate, personal income and sales taxes.

Tokyo has also floated the idea of share sales in NTT and Japan Tobacco but it would first have to amend laws that require minimum shareholdings in the two companies.

The government also owns shares in Tokyo Metro Co, the operator of Tokyo’s subway systems, which could potentially generate cash with an initial public offering.

($1 = 78.865 Japanese Yen)

Reporting by Tokyo Economic Policy Desk; Additional reporting by Junko Fujita, Writing by Rie Ishiguro; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Edmund Klamann

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