Japan needs to draw foreign workers for quake recovery: panel chief

Japan needs to attract a large number of foreigners to help revive the farming and fishery industries in areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the head of a key reconstruction panel said Friday.

“It is important to draw human resources, including permanent foreign residents” to the hard-hit northeastern region of Tohoku, Makoto Iokibe, who chairs the Reconstruction Design Council, said at a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.

Iokibe noted that many cities and towns in the region, known for strong farming and fishery industries, had suffered from depopulation even before they were destroyed by the natural calamities, so population growth will be vital for their reconstruction.

Iokibe, president of the National Defense Academy of Japan, also said that the country cannot avoid engaging in discussions on whether to raise taxes to fund reconstruction measures, given its heavy debt pile and fiscal constraints.

The advisory panel to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, which Iokibe has been heading since early April, has been asked to develop the first set of proposals for reconstruction by around the end of June.