Japanese Minister to Meet PM

Japanese Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa will visit Cambodia on Jan 8-9, and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Finance Minister Keat Chhon.

The prime minister told the Cambodia Daily he will be asking Masajuro Shiokawa not to reduce assistance to Cambodia.

His trip was not planned in connection with the Jan 16 donor meeting to take place in Phnom Penh, Japanese Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa said.

The Japanese minister will have no specific issue on his agenda and is just trying to find out for himself how Cambodia is doing, according to the ambassador. “I think it’s very good that the minister in charge of the budget gets to know the situation personally, and discusses matters with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Finance Minister Keat Chhon,” the ambassador said.

Masajuro Shiokawa will arrive in Phnom Penh from Laos, where he is also making a two-day visit.

The Japanese government will submit a budget that is expected to contain a10 percent cut in Official Development Assistance for the fiscal year 2002-2003. Japan is Cambodia’s biggest donor.

Any reduction would come at a time when the yen is weak compared to the US dollar, which would translate into even less aid when measure in dollars.

Japan has already announced that it would provide an undetermined amount of aid to Afghan­istan.

“Of course, if a large amount of money is going to Afghanistan, it will affect other countries’ [aid packages],” said the ambassador. “It may affect Cambodia to a certain extent.”

But he said Japanese aid goes to developing countries with the greatest need, and “we are pressing [on behalf of Cambodia].”

In 1999, Japan distributed $15 billion to more than 160 countries, the ambassador said. At the June 2001 Cambodia donor meeting in Tokyo, the Japanese government pledged $118 million in aid to Cambodia for 2002. Any change in Japan’s aid policy would be mostly felt in 2003.

At the Jan 16 donor meeting, government and donor country officials will review progress made on priorities set in Tokyo.




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