The main problem with Japan’s official development assistance lies not in its quantity but in its lack of expertise, a specialist in development economics said Tuesday.
Addressing a news conference in Tokyo, University of Denver Professor Haider A. Khan gave two examples of shortcomings in Japanese aid: the lack of effort by the Japanese to communicate in the language of the recipient countries and the lack of overall knowledge that these people have.
Khan’s comments come at a time when Japan is moving to revise its ODA charter to reflect a distribution policy that is more closely linked to its national security.
“Though there are Japanese people who spend time learning languages such as Bahasa Indonesia or Bengali, the language skills (needed by people involved in aid projects) should be more emphasized,” he said.
Aid is a matter of development as well as anthropology, sociology and history, he said. Japanese dispatched to recipient countries, such as engineers, should know more about relevant issues, including the history of Japan’s development, he said.
Khan said that while Japanese development aid is historically geared toward improving infrastructure, reduction of poverty will become a more pressing issue.
“And beyond poverty reduction, Japanese aid should be used to enhance the education and culture of recipient countries,” he said.
Japan shares a common culture with Asian countries, which are some of the largest recipients of its aid, making such aid especially effective, he said.
He said aid is often linked to moral hazards, with some critical of the fact that ODA is given to countries that are expanding their military potential.
“In spite of issues such as (the) Tiananmen (Square incident), Japanese aid to China keeps continuing,” he said. “It’s too big a market to ignore.”
While ODA is often politically and economically motivated, it is important to keep monitoring where it goes and evaluating its effectiveness, he said.