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Japan Second Most Generous Aid Donor

Thursday, April 6, 2006 Posted: 12:49 PM JST

Japan was the second most generous donor of total aid in 2005, UPI reports today. The results are from preliminary figures released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "OECD data suggested Japan's annual contribution reached $13.1 billion dollars, up 46.8 percent from the previous year, positioning the country second only to the United States in the list of donor nations. The United States donated $27.46 billion in 2005."

The increase was mainly attributed to Japan's debt relief grants to Iraq, accounting for $3.22 billion. Indonesia, the largest recipient of Japanese loans, has seen $802 million recently committed.

Although Japan has increased loans to many countries, it has postponed its decision on contributions to China, mainly as a result of soured relations. On Wednesday, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that new loans to China will be about $647 million, or $85 million less than the 2004 amount.

Japan is the only country that has almost fully paid its tsunami commitments, effectively making it the largest contributor in tsunami aid.

"The United States," the Times reported March 29, "has paid out less than half of the $800 million (£458 million) it pledged in aid to help victims of last year’s tsunami. Figures released yesterday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the US handed over just under $300 million. Germany, which made a commitment for a little over $300 million, has paid out less than $100 million, while less than half of the $250 million offered by France eventually appeared on the ground. In contrast, Japan transferred almost all the $600 million it had promised on paper..."

Naturally, countries receiving donations take notice. Japan may have image problems in China and Korea, the opposite is true in most other Asian countries. Tom plates writes in the Seattle Times how Vietnam for example likes working with the Japanese. The country receives a large amount of Japanese aid.

"'In some ways,' explained a friend who is very well employed in the Saigon municipal government, 'the Japanese are the easiest of all our foreign interlocutors to deal with...'

... the Japanese are prepared to offer loans, at incredibly low interest rates — 'sometimes just 1 percent,' explained my friend, the master negotiator who deals with the Chinese, the Koreans, and anyone who is thinking of helping the country escape from poverty.

What does Japan ask for in return? Vietnam's vote at the U.N.? The opening of a Japanese war memorial downtown? Obeisance to the Chrysanthemum Throne?

'None of this, not at all,' says my friend. 'We just have to use the yen in ways that help Japanese businesses in this country and the region.'

This means buying Japanese goods, or helping Japanese businesses establish themselves here.

One imagines, though, that the Japanese business-master treats the lowly Vietnamese worker like a pitiful slave, eh?

'Just the opposite,' explained the Vietnamese official as his sister ladled out our dinner in his home near the Saigon River: 'The Japanese treat our workers with care and respect. This is the Japanese way. Vietnamese would rather work for them than well, I'd rather not say, but rather for them than some other national employers that are not so nice.'"

Keywords: national_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

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