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A Foreign Ministry panel began discussions Wednesday on how official development assistance can meet Japan’s national interests amid mounting calls for the reduction of the ODA budget in the current economic climate.

At the outset of the meeting, Seiken Sugiura, senior vice foreign minister, said Japan should take a selective approach to ODA by cutting unnecessary assistance measures while expanding on important areas.

Toshio Watanabe, professor of development studies at Takushoku University and chairman of the 14-member panel, said environmental projects and helping least developed countries should be the new focus of Japan’s ODA in a shift from infrastructure development in East Asia.

The panel will hold meetings twice a month and release a midterm report in July before submitting the final report to the foreign minister in November.

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