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October 2, 2008

President Ogata Discusses Future Challenges

As New JICA is launched Mrs. Ogata discusses challenges of globalization, climate change and rocketing fuel and food prices.

President Ogata Discusses Future Challenges

  • Question: What will be the advantages of New JICA in the arena of international development assistance?

    Answer: When we combine our resources-technical assistance, soft loans and grant aid-the impact could be huge. We are also combining the talents of so many people in different fields. This will create a new synergy, a new chemistry for JICA.

  • Q. The merger has been the result of several years of planning. Is New JICA ready to ‘hit the ground running?

    A. The senior staff are in place. We are establishing some 19 new JICA-JBIC combined offices around the world. We are going to be able to use our new finances and technical expertise more efficiently. With all of these joint resources we should be able to meet any problem or crisis anywhere in the world-technical projects, disaster relief, training.

  • Q. The merger is taking place at a time of unprecedented crisis-rocketing fuel and food prices, and climate change. Is the timing fortuitous or faulty?

    A. It was not planned this way, of course. But given all of these new challenges it probably would have been a necessary step for such a merger. With these combined resources we should be able to help tackle anything and everything that develops. The timing turned out to be the right time.

  • Q. Globalization is also presenting its own set of challenges?

    A. Certainly. Globalization is here and this will require a new approach from organizations such as JICA. We have to move more quickly, more effectively and more expansively. For instance, we cannot help to create a perfect health system in one country when there is chaos in a neighboring state. That kind of limited approach will not work any more. Information is also global and even local communities now know what is going on beyond the village fence and will not be satisfied unless their aspirations are also met.

  • Q. Japan’s foreign assistance has decreased by 40% in the last few years. Given such difficult global circumstances, including in Japan itself, is there any likelihood this downward trend can be reversed?

    A. Right now I don’t think it will be possible to reverse the trend in purely financial terms though eventually I hope this will change. However, even if ODA (Official Development Assistance) continues to go down, Japan will remain among the world’s leading donor countries and we must continue to make more effective use of the resources available through creativity, determination and cooperation. The merger will push us to make the best use of our financial resources and human talent.

  • Q. Japan recently hosted an African economic summit, TICAD IV. Will this new emphasis on Africa continue in New JICA?

    A. Yes. Our presence in many areas such as Sierra Leone or Liberia is still quite new and we will continue to explore and expand our activities. The TICAD conference was very successful because it was well structured and adopted an action plan which will allow JICA to more effectively help a continent which has so many urgent needs.

  • Q. What will be JICA’s priorities in Africa?

    A. There was renewed interest at the summit conference in basic infrastructure-roads and bridges which will not only benefit overall national and regional development but also the direct needs of local communities. There was a lot of rapprochement and agreement between what African leaders were asking vis a vis infrastructure and what we were thinking. This meeting of minds was extremely important.

  • Q. JICA has increased its operating budget for Africa in recent years to 24%. Will this continue to grow?

    A. If needs are clearly identified, why not? We should be very flexible in this situation. In earlier years, JICA devoted massive resources to Asia with some powerful results. That experience will be very helpful.

  • Q. What has been your own biggest challenge as President of JICA?

    A. Trying to change the way of thinking in the organization. There were set patterns: We have always done something this way, so we must continue to do it this way. I have challenged the status quo. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But this set way of doing things doesn’t work anymore. Our work is on the ‘frontlines’ of development and we have to change our ways and eliminate bureaucracy wherever and whenever we can.


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