The March 11th, 2011 earthquake and tsunami were nothing short of a tragedy in Japan. Nearly 20,000 people were either killed or swept out to sea, and those who survived had to face the fact that some of their loved ones, homes, processions, and even entire coastal town were destroyed, leaving nothing but the barren ground. All that debris, an estimated 1.5 million tons, was washed out into the ocean and has been slowly making its way to North America’s Pacific Coast. Now Japan wants to make the ridiculous gesture of giving money for the cleanup efforts.
Over the last few months, there have been some small scatterings of debris that washed up on the shores of the United States and Canada, small things like foam and wood, or pieces of plastic with writing on them that makes it clear they came from Japan. There’s even been some pretty incredible things found, like a huge 70 foot dock, a soccer ball that was traced back to its owner and returned, and even a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. This was only the beginning, however. Scientists say the real deluge of wreckage has yet to start, and when it does, debris could be washing ashore for months, or even more than a year.
The costs of cleanup and disposal are expected to be huge, and will have to be shouldered by local communities and governments. In response to this, the Japanese government has pledged roughly $6 million to the U.S. and Canada in aid. They say they want to do this as a way of showing appreciation for the millions and millions of dollars that was donated to Japan in post-disaster relief efforts. It is also an incredibly foolish act at this point in time.
This move is 100% Japan’s initiative, the governments of Canada and the U.S. in no way asked for financial help in dealing with debris cleanup or said that it was Japan’s responsibility, and because of that I’m really hoping they refuse any money from Japan. Earthquakes and tsunamis are natural disasters, they are not the responsibility of any single country, and just like in the case of March 2011, they have the potential to affect people and countries around the globe. Japan was impacted by these disasters immediately, and now, a year and a half later, North America is feeling the results.
Now, I know enough about this country to understand that this is just Japan being Japan; showing appreciation by repaying gifts with other gifts, never letting a kind deed go without a response, but on a much grander scale. It’s a truly honorific gesture on Japan’s part, and one that I would champion if it weren’t for the host of internal problems that the government needs to be addressing right now.
Japan has one of the worst-rated economies among all the first world nations at this point. There’s huge corporations like Sharp, Sony, and NEC that have been losing money for years and issuing layoffs by the thousands. There’s the snowballing government debt, the social security system on the verge of collapse, and a rapidly shrinking population. These are all things that the government has yet to address and come up with solutions for. There is also the fact that there are still thousands and thousands of Japanese citizens still trying to recover, either from losing everything in the tsunami or from evacuating after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Reconstruction efforts in the devastated Tohoku region started out very promising, but have slowed to a crawl now because of the country’s overall economy woes. Because of this, people have no jobs to go back to, let alone homes to live in. And the government has been widely criticized for not doing enough to help Fukushima evacuees, starting with finding a real solution to the widespread radiation. And if it seems like $6 million isn’t that much money, don’t forget that the government is about to waste $26 million on buying a couple of rocks in the ocean in the name of nationalism.
The act on Japan’s part is truly of a kind nature, but now is not the time to using money that way. And there’s no real way to “pay it forward” when it comes to natural disasters. If Japan really wants to show gratitude for all the recovery aid it received, it should help give to the next country struck by natural disaster. But you can’t go paying things like that back when your country’s people and economy are not in a healthy condition.
Comments Off on JDP Startup Corner: Pros & Cons of Working with a Partner in Japan