Japan should make its official development assistance more efficient and transparent to convince the public that the funds are spent in the nation’s interest, according to the fiscal 2000 white paper on ODA released Friday by the Foreign Ministry.

The report stresses the importance of ODA at a time when the public is criticizing the huge amounts Tokyo has spent — the world’s largest at $15.32 billion in 1999 — to help smaller countries develop while its own economy stays stuck in a protracted slump.

Last year, some lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party called for a 30 percent cut in ODA. The government answered by reducing its ODA budget for fiscal 2001 by 3 percent from the previous year to 1.015 trillion yen.

The latest report claims that ODA remains Japan’s major diplomatic tool for contributing to global peace and security, especially in mainland Asia, where it spends 60 percent its budget. Other industrialized nations share responsibility by accepting refugees and participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

For example, Japan’s ODA contributed greatly to fighting the Asian economic crisis of 1997 and helped maintain stability in the region, it says.

“We must explain to our citizens in a convincing way that maintenance and strengthening of ODA meet their own interests,” the report says.

The white paper made a special note of Japan’s ODA policy for China, an issue that was highly criticized last year.

In addition to Japan’s tight fiscal condition, voices against ODA to China grew in light of sharp increases in Chinese military spending, maritime activities in Japanese waters and the fact that China is providing aid to other developing countries.

In light of the criticism, the government has decided to change its official loan policy toward China from multiyear disbursement programs, under which Japan has provided approximately 200 billion yen annually through agreements every few years, to a single-year program beginning in fiscal 2001, the report says.

A Foreign Ministry panel suggested in December that China-bound ODA should be decided on a project-by-project basis and that the overall amount can be reduced by increasing efficiency.

The report says the government will take the panel’s suggestion into account when it forms its ODA policy toward China for the five-year period beginning in fiscal 2001, which is expected to be released by the end of April.

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