• Auckland, New Zealand

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Setsuko Kamiya writes in the Jan. 5 article “(JICA president Sadako) Ogata to Japan: Remember, pay it forward” that, in the 1990s, Japan was the world’s most generous donor but that, by 2008, Japan was down to No. 5, after the United States, Germany, Britain and France among the 22 member countries of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Japan has never been the most generous donor of developing aid. It was only by virtue of its large population that Japan was previously rated the largest contributor. When talking about generosity, the amount of aid should be measured either per capita or as a percentage of gross national product.

And how is the money spent? A Japanese acquaintance of mine who had been running a tax-accounting company for some years decided to retire at age 45 after he had saved enough money. He had intended to move to Thailand and spend the rest of his life studying at a university and doing as he pleased. However, he suddenly got the chance to “volunteer” for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). So he was sent as a so-called volunteer to Mexico as a financial expert.

Although he was a “volunteer,” he received a far higher salary than I received as a postdoctoral research fellow at a Japanese university. He also got a luxurious apartment and a servant in addition to his salary. All this in Mexico, where the cost of living is far lower than it is in Japan.

If that is how JICA spends official development assistance, then Japan has even less to be proud of.

joergen jensen

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