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Japan's parliament passes tsunami recovery budget

May 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Japan's parliament passed a $48 billion tsunami recovery budget on Monday to start covering the cost of the massive disaster.

Mounting frustrations over the government's response to the tsunami and the still unfolding nuclear crisis at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are threatening to topple the nation's prime minister.

The 4 trillion yen budget supplement to the fiscal year that started in April was unanimously approved by parliament's upper house budget committee Monday and was made into law at the chamber's plenary session. The more powerful lower house had approved the plan on Saturday.

The budget is slated to cover the building of new houses for more than 100,000 people who remain without proper shelter. It will also take on the massive job of clearing debris and rubble as well as reconstruction of fishing grounds. It will also provide support for disaster-hit businesses and their employers.

The March 11 magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, which wiped out large swaths of Japan's northeastern coastline, are believed to have caused an estimated $300 billion in damage, making it the most expensive disaster ever. More than 26,000 people are dead or missing.

Though the budget passed relatively smoothly, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government is coming under growing pressure and can expect greater opposition from rival parties in future budget negotiations.

Opposition leaders have called on Kan - who was already unpopular before the disaster - to step down for his handling of the aftermath, particularly his response to the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

A poll released Monday by the Asahi, a major newspaper, found 55 percent of respondents have "few expectations" for Kan's Cabinet to handle the disaster response properly. Only 27 percent said they were "hopeful," according to the nationwide telephone survey conducted April 23 and 24 among 1,842 randomly selected households.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.