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The Finance Ministry should loosen its grip on and refrain from using World Bank scholarships designed to give people in developing countries chances to study abroad, Taro Kono, a House of Representatives member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said Wednesday.

Among developed countries, only Japan has been taking from the scholarship fund in recent years, and the majority of the scholarships have been used to sponsor officials from the Finance Ministry, Kono said.

Of the 75 Japanese who received World Bank scholarships up to last year, 47 were ministry officials, while most of the rest were members of organizations closely tied to the ministry, he said.

“It is wrong to take money donated to the World Bank and use it for our own interests to send bureaucrats to study overseas,” he said.

Vice Finance Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, responding to Kono at the Lower House’s budget and administration monitoring committee, said the monopoly issue needs to be addressed.

Shiozaki also said the scholarships are “clearly targeted at personnel in developing countries.”

However, at a press conference later in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka said Japan would not immediately stop sending ministry officials to study on World Bank scholarships. Though admitting the ministry officials’ virtual monopoly of the scholarships “is odd,” Muraoka, the top government spokesman, said that developing countries’ scholarships were necessary for educating Japanese government personnel to respond to its “internationalization.”

Muraoka said the government will consider a strengthening of the National Personnel Authority’s study-abroad system for public servants.

According to the Finance Ministry, the World Bank established the scholarships in 1987 to help people in developing countries become experts in economic development. Japan provides the scholarship system with about 20 billion yen each year.

In the early years of the award, there were scholarship recipients from other developed countries, but since 1993 only one developed country has been dipping into the fund — Japan.

Of the 198 recipients in fiscal 1997, which ended March 31, 1998, 14 were Japanese, according to the ministry.

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