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Japan and Brazil have plowed the field but may have forgotten to sow the seed.

Top government aid officials of the two countries signed an agreement late last March to promote bilateral cooperation in providing technical assistance for the development of third countries in the developing world.

But 10 months after the signing of the Japan-Brazil Partnership Program between the world’s largest single aid donor and the by far the biggest Latin American power, the program has yet to be put into practice, with no agreement on even a single project.

“There may be little room for excuse,” a senior Japanese government official frankly acknowledged. “We want to accelerate our joint efforts with Brazil to translate the partnership program into specific action as soon as possible,” the official said, requesting that he not be named.

The partnership program will target other Portuguese-speaking developing countries, including East Timor, a former Portuguese colony that won independence from Indonesia in a United Nations-run referendum in August 1999. Most Portuguese-speaking developing countries are in Africa.

The partnership program is aimed at boosting “triangular” cooperation among Japan, Brazil and the poorer developing countries, with Japan providing financial support for South-South cooperation between Brazil and the poorer developing countries.

For example, if Brazil accepts trainees from the Portuguese-speaking African countries and East Timor or sends experts to them to help their development efforts, Japan would finance the assistance from its official development assistance budget.

Japan has concluded similar partnership programs with several developing countries, including Singapore, Thailand and Egypt. Brazil became the third Latin American country to conclude such a program with Japan, after Mexico and Chile.

Senior government aid officials from Japan and Brazil met for the first time in Brasilia in September to discuss the basic issues concerning the program, including possible areas of cooperation, like health and medical care, and agriculture. They also discussed ways to form and implement specific projects.

The aid officials also managed to agree at the time to work out and implement a single pilot cooperation project during fiscal 2001, which starts April 1. According to Japanese government officials, the same aid officials plan to meet again in Brasilia next month to try and work out the pilot project.

In recent years, Japan has made promotion of triangular cooperation a major pillar of its official aid policy.

Technical assistance from relatively rich developing countries to poorer developing countries with similar cultural backgrounds are widely believed to be more effective and less expensive than technical assistance directly offered by industrialized countries to the poorest among the third world.

Although Japan has retained the status as the world’s largest aid donor for the past nine consecutive years, the growth in its official development assistance budget has been heavily curbed in recent years due to the tight fiscal condition amid the prolonged economic slump. The Japanese ODA budget for fiscal 2001 will be even slashed, by 3 percent.

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