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Gov't panel calls for launch of strategic council on ODA+
[January 25, 2006]

Gov't panel calls for launch of strategic council on ODA+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, Jan. 25_(Kyodo) _ A government advisory panel reviewing the organizational aspects of Japan's official development assistance suggested Wednesday that a strategic council will be set up for the prime minister to take the lead in deciding key aid projects and other basic ODA policies, panel members said.

Comprising the prime minister, the chief Cabinet secretary, the foreign and other key ministers, the council will make a decision on such policies as major projects to be financed with Tokyo's low-interest yen loans and its annual aid policies for a coming fiscal year starting in April, the panel members said.

The idea falls in line with a proposal last Thursday by Foreign Minister Taro Aso to create a "small, compact group of Cabinet ministers" to draw up ODA strategies, floated with the aim of having his ministry retain its central role in ODA operations as a diplomatic tool.

The panel, chaired by a former prosecutor general, Akio Harada, also agreed that the Foreign Ministry will play the core role in coordinating the planning of specific ODA projects with the finance, trade and other ministries and agencies involved.

The envisaged council will also discuss major projects overseas to be financed with Japan's public non-aid loans "from such viewpoints as coordination with ODA and national interests of securing resources and international competitiveness."

Both types of external loans are currently extended by the state-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation, whose fate is subject to the panel's report to the chief Cabinet secretary due out by the end of March.

To consolidate state financing, the government's policy-setting Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy decided in November to merge the JBIC with four other financiers after separating its yen-loan function, but left the issue of what entity will take over the aid loan operation to be advised by the panel.

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