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An advisory panel to Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka on Wednesday stressed the importance of official development assistance with regard to Japan’s foreign policy.

The panel added, nevertheless, that it recognized the need to ensure the effectiveness of ODA to poor countries amid current fiscal constraints.

In a five-page interim report submitted to Tanaka, the panel called on the government to give careful consideration toward ODA that requires a long-term commitment when it plans future ODA budgets.

It also said the government should, in this context, consider the benefits reaped by Japanese people via ODA.

“We should not forget that it will take a long time for the assistance to bear fruit,” the report says.

“It is necessary to continue consistent efforts to seek not only short-term results, but also anticipated outcomes in the long term.”

It also warned of the negative effects that could arise from a sharp cut in Japan’s ODA budget, saying the trust and praise Japan has earned from the international community will be difficult to regain once lost.

The panel’s final report is scheduled to be submitted to the foreign minister in November, before the government compiles its budget for fiscal 2002 in December.

In the interim report, the 14-member panel suggested that increasing the level of public participation in ODA projects would help people to pursue their dreams and develop their potential.

The report acknowledged, however, that the ODA budget should not be isolated from the government’s efforts to spend prudently amid the current economic slump.

In terms of reforming ODA, the panel suggested that recipient countries devise systematic assistance plans in which they list key areas of need, and advocated strengthened international cooperation in delivering assistance.

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