To make the nation’s official development assistance more efficient, the Foreign Ministry should take the lead by formulating a comprehensive rather than piecemeal approach to aid programs, an interim report released June 27 by a private panel says.

Japan’s development assistance programs are often mapped out based on the project and the type of assistance, for example, yen loans or grant-in-aid. But comprehensive country-by-country programs matched to the needs of recipient countries are crucial to Japan’s ODA program, the report said.

The report recommends that the Foreign Ministry be the main institution in formulating efficient assistance programs, but that such an idea may be opposed by the other ministries, such as the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which view ODA from different perspectives. The panel, which reports to Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda, is headed by Saburo Kawai, head of the International Development Center of Japan. The body is discussing ways of reformulating Japan’s ODA strategy now that the budget has been slashed due to the government’s fiscal reconsolidation.

Japan was the world’s top aid donor for six consecutive years through 1996, but its ODA for 1996 plunged 34.8 percent from the previous year to $9.61 billion. In fiscal 1998, assistance will be cut 10 percent further.

The report recommends that Japan strengthen its cooperation with emerging economies so that assistance can be promoted to a third country. It added that Japan should take the initiative in establishing a forum for that purpose. The report also recommends the promotion of cooperation between the government and the private sector in extending development assistance.

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