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The nation needs to specify priority sectors in extending official development assistance because its resources are under restraint due to tight fiscal policy, according to a final report released Tuesday by a 10-member private consulting body to Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi.”Japan’s ODA has been well balanced to cover a variety of fields, but the government needs to clarify priority sectors because of budgetary restraint,” the report says. Priority sectors include elimination of poverty, environmental protection and prevention of internal conflicts, according to the report, which was handed to Obuchi on Tuesday afternoon.The panel, headed by Saburo Kawai, chief of the International Development Center of Japan, was established in May to discuss ways to reform Japan’s ODA. The government decided to cut ODA by about 10 percent for fiscal 1998, which starts April 1.The report expresses concern over the cut, saying “maintaining the quantity” is important as well as “improving the quality.” To enhance the efficiency of official development assistance, a comprehensive approach is essential, and the Foreign Ministry should play the leading role in mapping out development assistance programs, the report says.Such programs should match the needs of recipient countries, according to the report. The report recommends strengthening cooperation with international organizations to enhance the effectiveness of Japan’s ODA.

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