Minister: Japan Won’t Cut Aid to Cambodia

Japan may be struggling to get out of its own economic slump, but its problems will not affect financial support to Cambodia in 2002 and 2003.

That is the message Japanese Finance Minister Masajuro Shi­o­ka­wa conveyed to Prime Minister Hun Sen during a two-day visit to Cambodia.

“We have no intention of reducing Official Development As­sis­tance to Cambodia,” said Tatsuo Ya­masaki, director of the De­vel­op­ment Finance Division at the Ja­panese Finance Ministry, after a meeting Tuesday evening be­tween Shiokawa and Hun Sen.

“Japan is very keen to continue its assistance to Cambodia,” said Yamasaki, adding that Cambodia has made a great effort to maintain political stability and strengthen its economy to catch up with wealthier Asean countries.

This week, the Japanese yen dropped to its lowest level in three years against the US dollar. Facing bleak economic prospects for the coming months, the Ja­pan­ese government has said it will recommend a 10 percent cut in foreign aid in the 2002-2003 budget it will send to parliament later this month. This will affect some of the 160 or so countries that re­ceive Japanese aid—but not Cambodia, Yamasaki said.

Shiokawa and his Finance Min­is­try delegation made quick visits to both Laos and Cambodia this week. During Shiokawa’s meeting with Hun Sen, the prime minister asked him to fund the construction of a bridge across the Mekong River on National Road 1 at Neak Loeung, southeast of Phnom Penh, Yamasaki said. Ja­pan has in the past funded two major bridges in Cambodia: One in Phnom Penh and another in Kom­pong Cham, which just opened last month.

Hun Sen also requested funds from Shiokawa to set up an electricity network in southern Cam­bo­dia using a design supported by the World Bank, Yamasaki said. Shiokawa told Hun Sen to submit his list of priorities to Ja­pan­ese Ambassador Gotaro Oga­wa, who will forward them to To­kyo.

During his talks with the prime minister and Cambodian Finance Minister Keat Chhon, Shiokawa stressed how important it is for Cam­bodia to create a good environment for foreign investment, us­ing sound business practices such as reliable international bank transfer to accommodate fo­reign companies opening offices in Cambodia.

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