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Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

ODA budget faces pruning in fiscal 2009


Staff writer

The Foreign Ministry will pare spending by 1.4 percent in fiscal 2009 to a total of ¥670 billion, including a 1 percent cut in its official development assistance, according to a budget draft the ministry revealed Monday.

The budget includes ¥436.3 billion for ODA programs to be used in overseas support for sustainable energy use and securing water resources and allocations to help developing countries reach their Millennium Development Goals.

Although the budgetary allocation for ODA is down from ¥440.7 billion in fiscal 2008, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone was satisfied with the small decrease, saying it will help Japan make necessary contributions to the international community.

The approval of a 1.4 percent budget cut "is welcome, considering that the resources are being suppressed in all fields," Nakasone told reporters.

The ministry succeeded in obtaining ¥13.1 billion from the special allocation of ¥330 billion set aside for priority policy matters, which Prime Minister Taro Aso will officially reveal Wednesday. The government has put aside the money to be distributed for pressing issues.

Appeals made as priority needs included environmental protection projects and overseas aid for agricultural technology assistance and food aid.

The cost of establishing new embassies in Palau, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Rwanda and Benin, as well as hiring an additional 235 employees for the ministry and embassies, was also approved.

The ODA budget has continued to dwindle in the 2000s in the face of economic woes and calls to focus on domestic issues.

While the Foreign Ministry in August requested ¥500.6 billion for ODA, the final draft released Monday reflected the harsh fall in the nation's economy.

But officials expressed satisfaction that the budget cut was held at the minimum level.



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