Thai finance minister expects Japan to maintain aid

FUKUOKA — Thailand’s finance minister said May 13 that he does not expect a complete reversal in Tokyo’s aid policy toward reducing official development assistance, expressing confidence that Japan will remain a key donor.

“I cannot see Japan, being an economic superpower country, stop its aid programs,” said Amnuay Viravan, who represented Thailand here at the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank. In the state budget for fiscal 1998, Tokyo is expected to give up its stance of placing priority on ODA expenditures and reduce the amounts it spends in view of the need to implement fiscal reconsolidation.

The minister said in an interview that economic activity is cyclical, and trends such as fiscal deficits will not continue eternally, implying he hopes Japan’s ODA would pick up again once fiscal health is restored. Thailand has been touted as a successful case of ODA policy, because it has grown to become able to make donations to the ADB’s Asian Development Fund in a gesture of its will to start helping other nations that are still poorer.

Viravan said the nature of the projects financed by foreign funds may change because financing for projects such as infrastructure development could be taken care of domestically. “But we still hope to get support (from nations such as Japan) for an extended period of time to assist our economy. Many of our development programs and projects are given support by (Japan’s) Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund,” he noted.

Areas where assistance from overseas could be of use are in human resource development, upgrading of rural areas and environmental protection, he said. On the Thai economy, Viravan said he was confident the nation can overcome its latest crisis concerning its financial institutions, which are suffering from the collapse of prices on assets such as property.