Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on Thursday launched a new standing panel of outside experts tasked with mapping out country-by-country strategies for official development assistance as part of the government’s reform of ODA.

The panel was created in response to criticism that Japan’s official aid programs are often inefficient and lack transparency.

It is headed by Kawaguchi, while Toshio Watanabe, a professor of development studies at Takushoku University, will serve as vice chairman. The other participants in the 18-member council have been selected from outside the ministry.

The panel will chiefly be responsible for mapping out and constantly reviewing country-by-country ODA strategies, under which specific areas of assistance designed for each country are set, Watanabe said.

The Foreign Ministry has already compiled country-specific ODA plans for 12 recipients, including China, Thailand and Cambodia. Watanabe said, however, the new council will review these plans and formulate new plans for other countries.

“Frankly speaking, we are not satisfied with the country plans (that have already been made) because they are too broadly defined and not much different from one another,” Watanabe said.

He said the council will try to focus on one specific field in crafting an aid policy for each country. For example, the Foreign Ministry has been reviewing Japan’s aid policy toward China, seeking to focus more on environment-related programs.

Kawaguchi stressed that one of the council’s main tasks will be to boost the transparency and accountability of projects, according to Watanabe.

The council consists of aid experts from academic and business sectors, as well as from nongovernmental organizations.

It is not known how far the panel can steer clear of the influence of Foreign Ministry bureaucrats in devising its plans. The panel will establish a task force for each country, with staff to include ministry officials, he said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.