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As Japan Ups Foreign Aid, Critics Call for Standards

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JAPAN'S overseas development assistance (ODA) surpassed that of the United States last year to become the world's largest. But Japanese aid insiders are concerned because they see insufficient development-aid policy and expertise in Japan to handle the increase, even as more requests pour in from around the world. Overseas aid reached $8.96 billion last year.

``Compared to the increasing amount of money, neither the Japanese aid system nor personnel situation have improved,'' says Yasuo Uchida of the International Development Center of Japan.

A senior economist at a government research facility says, ``Japan should improve the way it handles ODA.''

In Japan, there is no single agency, such as the United States Agency for International Development, that specializes in aid policy and project evaluation.

Seventeen ministries and agencies request ODA-related budget items.

Loans need approval from four different government offices - the Foreign Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and the Economic Planning Agency. Grants are extended by the Foreign Ministry and technical cooperation and loans are provided by two other organizations.

But calls for a review of this system have mounted, especially as the reach of overseas development aid is expected to stretch beyond Asia.

Starting as war reparations in 1956, most of Japan's aid has gone to Asia. In 1988, about 63 percent went to Asia, 14 percent to Africa, 9 percent to the Middle East, and 6 percent to Central and South America. But Asia particularly has criticized Japan for the quality of its aid.

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