Japan stretched its record as the world’s top aid donor to seven consecutive years in 1997 despite cuts in official development assistance and a depreciating yen, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Japan’s ODA in 1997 totaled $9.36 billion, down 0.9 percent from the previous year, but was top among the 21 members that make up the Development Assistance Committee, the ministry said.

Despite a tight fiscal situation at home and the depreciation of the yen, Japan kept its place as the biggest donor because aid from other major countries substantially declined.

France was the second-largest aid donor in 1997 at $6.35 billion, down 14.8 percent from a year earlier, while the United States was third with $6.17 billion, down 34.2 percent, the ministry said.

U.S. aid dropped drastically, mainly because the economy of Israel, a major recipient of U.S. aid, outgrew ODA standards for recipient countries in 1997 and became ineligible, ministry officials said.

Measuring ODA in terms of gross national product, Japan ranked 19th among the DAC members in 1997, spending 0.22 percent of its GNP.

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