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Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2012

Helping world will help Japan: JICA president


Akihiko Tanaka, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, says Japanese assistance to other countries will make the world a more peaceful place and help revitalize the nation.

"Japan's assistance to the world will bring peace, expand the market, generate people-to-people exchanges and deepen friendship," the 58-year-old said recently. "Doing so can revitalize the world and will eventually help Japan recharge itself."

The scholar of international politics assumed the post in April to replace Sadako Ogata, who served for 8½ years.

As chief of the organization that manages Japan's official development assistance, Tanaka said: "Today's Japan cannot survive without any association with the world; it is our country's mission to do something for the needy in other parts of the world."

In this light, "I think it is time for the Japanese government to move to increase its budget allocations for ODA," he said. Japan was the world's largest aid donor in the 1990s, but fell to around fifth by 2007 as it cut its aid budget amid the declining economy.

As he had long been in academia, Tanaka felt a bit awkward when he first was offered the JICA presidency.

"It was something I'd never thought of becoming," he said.

Before taking the post, Tanaka was vice president at the University of Tokyo. He also directed the university's Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia from 2002 to 2006.

But he said he decided to accept the offer. "I thought there would be times when I could make use of what I'd learned."

He said what he finds most interesting about the job is that he can directly meet many different people and hear their opinions.

"It is as if I have been given an opportunity to learn without paying tuition," he said.

As he believes it is important to visit and see what is happening abroad, Tanaka has already visited the Philippines, Kenya and the United States.

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