Reform of Japan’s official development assistance is needed to achieve efficient and effective ways of extending foreign aid, an ODA white paper released Friday says.”Japan’s ODA in the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, 1999, has been cut by 10.4 percent. … Therefore, efficiency and effectiveness of ODA is crucial because ODA is an important contribution by Japan to the international community,” the Foreign Ministry said in the annual report.People’s support for ODA is relatively high, but an increasing number of citizens are raising questions about extending foreign aid at a time when Japan itself is facing a difficult economic situation, the report says.Japan’s total official development assistance in 1997 decreased 1.8 percent from a year earlier to $9.44 billion, but the nation was the world’s top aid donor for the seventh consecutive year.The government is reviewing ODA based on Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s instruction at the first Cabinet meeting after he took office in July that transparency and efficiency should be increased in foreign aid, the white paper says.The Foreign Ministry is also promoting reform of ODA based on a report by a private consulting body to the minister released in January, it says. The report states that Japan needs to specify priority sectors, such as elimination of poverty and environmental protection, in extending foreign assistance.This year’s annual report details Japan’s assistance for the financial crisis in Asia, health and welfare, political and market reforms of former socialist countries and regional conflicts.As for health and welfare, Japan has been actively promoting efforts to combat AIDS and improve children’s health, the white paper says.Japan considers the transformation of socialist countries to market-oriented economies and democracies important for international peace and stability and is assisting reform efforts in countries such as Vietnam and Mongolia, the report says.

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