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Speech Transcripts

January 14, 2015

Lecture co-sponsored by JICA and the Center of Diplomatic and Strategic Studies (CEDS): Cooperation of Two Island Countries in the Age of the Indo-Pacific

Carlton Hotel, Antananarivo, Madagascar

Manahoana tompoko. (Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.)
Arahaba tratry ny atone vaovao. (Happy New Year.)

It is a great privilege and honor for me to have the opportunity to speak to you today. This is my first visit to Madagascar. I visited JICA project sites in Ambatondrazaka and Toamasina the day before yesterday. I had the honor of meeting many leaders of Madagascar yesterday. Although my experiences in your country are still limited, I feel very much at home in this beautiful country.

Madagascar has successfully organized presidential elections in 2013 and democratically established a government in April 2014. In light of renewed efforts to bring about political stability in the country, we at JICA are determined to strengthen our cooperation activities in Madagascar. We are committed to working with our friends in this country as it undergoes its political and economic transition. We hope our efforts will contribute to laying the foundation for sustainable growth and development in a way that will benefit the Malagasy people as a whole.

We believe that cooperation bears fruit most effectively if we understand each other and learn from each other. As I just said, this is my first visit to Madagascar. This is a great opportunity for me to better understand your country. Likewise, on the occasion of my speech today, I would be most pleased if you could gain a greater sense of familiarity with Japan and a better understanding of why JICA is working hard in Madagascar.

As you know, Japan is also an island country situated off a big continent. In fact, it consists of many islands: four big islands and nearly 7,000 small islands. With a population of 130 million, Japan is a very densely populated country. It is crowded mainly because there are many, many mountains. Only 12 percent of the land is arable. As a result, 93 percent of the population lives in urban areas.

Archeological evidence suggests that the first modern humans settled in Japan about 40,000 years ago. Some of the oldest pottery in the world, estimated to be 13,000 years old, was found in Japan. Rice cultivation started about 6,000 years ago, a practice thought to have been adopted from China. Political centralization took place sometime in the 6th to 7th century under the strong influence from the continental civilizations of China and Korea.

Japan's relationship with the continent has been very influential in shaping the country's history. Japan adopted Chinese characters to write Japanese words and sentences. The legal system of imperial government was built following the pattern of the Tang Dynasty. Buddhism came to Japan by way of China and Korea. In other words, the distance between Japan and the continent is small enough for Japan to have absorbed many advanced systems and artifacts from continental civilizations.

But Japan also experienced many developments that evolved organically from within the island nation. The centralized system in line with the Chinese empire's model attempted in the 7th and 8th centuries did not last for long. Although the emperor continued to be the head of the state, Japan developed a complex system of feudalism somewhat similar to that of medieval Europe. The effective power of the emperor changed from era to era, and in many periods, the emperor was a nominal ruler without effective political power. At times, Japan was fragmented to the point that there were numerous feudal lords controlling only limited portions of their respective fiefs.

In many ways, the Japanese evolved in an indigenous manner when it came to culture, too. In addition to the Chinese characters, they devised their own scripts for writing. Court ladies wrote great novels like the Tale of Genji about one thousand years ago. New Buddhist sects with quite distinct doctrines emerged in Japan as well.

The Mongolian Empire attempted to invade Japan in the 13th century but failed partly as a result of bad weather and logistical difficulties. In other words, though in many ways subject to influences from the continent, Japan was distant enough from it to protect itself and breed its own culture and identity.

When Europeans came to East Asia in the 16th century, Japan was fragmented, with many feudal warlords embroiled in fighting each other. Some of the warlords were open to adopting the new technologies that European brought with them, such as guns. Some converted to Christianity. However, when the Tokugawa clan finally pacified the entire country and consolidated its power in the middle of 17th century, it decided to expel all foreigners and prohibit the Japanese from traveling abroad. The Tokugawa government allowed only the Dutch and the Chinese to conduct limited trade through one port, the Port of Nagasaki. For the two centuries following this decision, Japan experienced a very rare period of internal peace and saw its indigenous culture mature. This was a period of isolation. Japan had very limited interaction with the rest of the world.

But of course, during the same period, Europe underwent a series of revolutions: a military revolution, a scientific revolution and an industrial revolution. As a result, when American naval gunboats arrived in Japan in 1853 and pressured the government to open up the country, the Tokugawa government did not possess weapons comparable to those of the Americans to be able to fight them off. Japan acquiesced. The subsequent years were marked by heated political controversies over how to respond to the challenges posed by the Western powers.

The Tokugawa government was overthrown in 1867 by a palace coup staged by prominent feudal lords, their low-ranking retainers and the noble class. These revolutionaries established a totally new government in the name of restoring the ancient imperial system. The revolutionaries insisted that the political power should be returned to the emperor.

But it was impossible to create a system of absolute monarchy like the ones of Louis XIV or the Peter the Great in late 19th century Japan. Those who played the most important role in the revolution were young retainers of prominent feudal lords. They became the oligarchs of the new government. They abolished the feudal system, effectively fired their lords in the name of the imperial order, and abolished class differences among warriors, farmers, craftsmen, and merchants. They introduced universal primary education, built a new modern military based on conscription, and started to build modern industries. The government they created was very similar to what we today call a developmental authoritarian government, rather than an ancient imperial system.

Not everything went smoothly, however. Differences of opinions emerged among the oligarchs. Their disagreement caused internal strife in the subsequent years and a major revolt in 1877. The revolt failed but non-military opposition continued. The sizable number of former revolutionaries alienated by the dominant oligarchies were frustrated. Many landed gentries, freed from the feudal system, were also dissatisfied because they were not allowed participation in government. Both demanded more democratization. The victorious oligarchs decided that, in order to prevent future revolts, it was necessary to introduce a Constitutional system. The Constitution of 1889 was the answer.

The Constitution established the parliament with two houses: the House of Peers and the House of Representatives. Representatives were elected by national general election. The suffrage was not universal, however. In the first general election of 1890, only those male adults who paid a certain amount of tax were eligible to vote; they constituted only 1.1 percent of the entire population.

Although the emperor was the ultimate political and legal authority, the parliament was beginning to play an increasingly important role. The emperor began appointing as prime minister the leader of the political party that had the most success in the general election. In the 1920s, two political parties took turns in forming cabinets. In 1925, universal male suffrage was introduced. It appeared as though the system of constitutional monarchy with increasingly more democratic elements, which Japan adopted from the West, was beginning to take root.

However, another policy that Japan learned from the West eventually proved disastrous for Japan: imperialist expansionism. Following the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese believed that the country would not survive unless the country became strong militarily, and that unless it emulated Western imperialism, it would become a victim of the Western powers. In 1895, Japan waged a war against the Qing dynasty of China over the control of Korea; Japan won. Japan took Taiwan as its first colony. It waged a war against Russia, also over Korea, in 1905; Japan won. Japan annexed Korea as its second colony. These military victories increased the power of the military.

If the constitution had been accompanied by an effective system of civilian control over the military, the constitutional system could have prevented the rise of militarism in the 1930s. In fact, the lack of civilian control was the biggest deficiency of the Constitution of 1889. According to the Constitution, the military was directly accountable to the emperor, and the prime minister was not in a position to oversee the military. When ultra-militarist elements in the military took extraordinary action without the consent of the government, the civilian government did not have the ability to control them effectively.

This was what happened on September 18, 1931, when elements of the military conspired to explode a railway in Manchuria. On the pretext of protecting the railway, the military started an extensive military operation with the goal of controlling all of Northeast of China. In 1937, the civilian government, unable to stop the military, allowed a small incident to become the beginning of the full-fledged war with China. The war of aggression in China led to the war with the United States, which resulted in Japan's complete defeat and destruction in 1945.

The war caused terrible damages to Japan's neighbors. It also caused tremendous damages to Japan. 2.1 million soldiers and 1 million civilians lost their lives. The major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka were destroyed by strategic bombing; Hiroshima and Nagasaki were annihilated by atomic bombs. The per capita GDP contracted by half and became 1,300 US dollars as estimated in 1990 dollars.

The two most prominent concepts that Japan learned from the West after the Meiji Restoration were the constitutional system with increased democratic elements and militarist expansionism. Imperialist expansionism wreaked havoc. The constitutional system did not prevent militaristic adventure. Japan learned in 1945 that it should not and could not repeat this mistake.

Between 1945 and 1952, when Japan was under Allied forces occupation, the country underwent many reforms. The constitution was completely revised. The emperor now became a symbol of the nation, the military was disbanded and the government was organized democratically. Complete universal suffrage was introduced with the full participation of women in the first general election of 1945.

One of Japan's first priorities on the international stage was to become a responsible member of the international community. The new constitution includes the following passage: "We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want."

In order to regain confidence amongst constituents of the international society, Japan declared that it would never again become a militarist power. As the new constitution stipulates, "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." The Japanese were convinced that militarism was not just wrong in and of itself but also threatened the prosperity of the nation. Future prosperity, they believed, would only be possible if the Japanese strived for peaceful and cooperative relations with the rest of the world.

In this respect, we owe a great deal of the post-war reconstruction to the generosity of the countries that emerged victorious from the war. Many of them waived their claims of reparations. International organizations were also helpful. The World Bank, for example, financed many infrastructure projects needed for postwar reconstruction. They served as a foundation for the rapid economic growth that characterized the late 1950s and early 1960s.

To reciprocate such generosity and to prove that it was committed to being a responsible member of the international community, Japan had its own work to do. To the countries to which Japan owed reparations, it fulfilled its obligations from the mid-1950s to 1970s. In addition to reparations, the government of Japan decided to initiate a program of international cooperation in 1954. It created an organization that was to become JICA's predecessor and started technical cooperation programs in the same year. Japan extended its first concessional ODA loans to India in 1958.

New political system based on complete democracy has worked much better than the pre-war system. The Liberal Democratic Party, formed in 1955, ruled the country for most of the years since its creation. Recently, the Democratic Party of Japan was in power from 2009 to 2012. The LDP under Prime Minister Abe returned to power in late 2012. As in any other democratic countries, the political scene is subject to occasional controversies. However, the general policy-lines have been stable and adaptable to changing circumstances for many years.

Eradicating the idea of military expansionism, in the early 1950s, the Japanese were convinced that establishing themselves as a peaceful trading state was the only possible way for Japan to regain respect and to become a prosperous country. The single-minded pursuit of economic activities, however, also attracted criticism. In the 1970s, Japan was sometimes criticized for engaging in economic expansionism and in some instances referred to as an "economic animal."

There needed to be more than economic motives. Pursuing the development of economic activities was much better than military expansionism. But being motivated by economic incentives alone did not bring about respect and friendship. Our predecessors pondered what would be the better way to create an international environment in which Japan operated effectively as a trading nation while gaining the respect and friendship of its counterparts. One way, they thought, was to engage in international cooperation activities and pursue efforts that would assist developing countries. JICA as an organization was created for this purpose in 1974.

There emerged several guidelines for JICA's activities. Many of them were reflections of Japan's experiences in postwar reconstruction, as well as experiences of working together with our partners in developing countries.

First, we believe that ownership is critical. We should not impose our preferences; we respect our partners' perspectives as they shape their priorities.

Second, human capacity development is critical for development. Unless human resources are developed, hardware alone will not be a driver of sustainable development.

Third, nevertheless, is the importance of infrastructure. Infrastructure is the foundation of economic growth. And quality economic growth is the foundation of sustainable poverty reduction.

And fourth, human-to-human interaction is crucial for any international cooperation for development. Without mutual understanding, joint action of cooperation cannot be conducted effectively.

These are guiding elements that characterize our development cooperation philosophy. With these in mind, we at JICA are implementing development projects in many parts of the world, including Madagascar.

I believe Madagascar is strategically located in the 21st century. I say this because I believe the 21st century is the age of the Indo-Pacific.

As I noted before, in the 19th and the 20th centuries, the West dominated the world economically as well as militarily. The world economy's center of gravity was located in the Atlantic. With the economic rise of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China and Southeast Asia in the last quarter of the 20th century, that center of gravity shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The west coast of the United States, Japan, China, the Four Tigers of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, as well as other Southeast Asian countries became the major economic powers driving the global economy.

And now in the first quarter of the 21st century, the world economy is again experiencing a shift, with its center moving from the Pacific to a much broader area which can be referred to as the "Indo-Pacific region." A large number of countries situated in this region are expected to attain economic growth of more than 5% in coming years.

The Pacific continues to play an important role. Nonetheless, the emerging economic powers along the Indian Ocean will also see their influence rise. The Pacific will be increasingly connected to markets from Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa.

Within this region of growing influence, Madagascar is favorably positioned to benefit from regional growth, with its East coast giving on to the Indian Ocean and its West coast facing the African continent.

Madagascar is full of potential as a country rich in natural resources, agricultural production, and human resources. Many of these sectors have yet to be fully developed, but as they do, the country can leverage the economic growth of the "Indo-Pacific" region to support its own economic development.

JICA has three priority areas in Madagascar: agriculture, infrastructure and social development. We chose these areas because they are the Malagasy government's priorities. Just as importantly, we also believe these priorities are appropriate because they are in areas in which Japan has experience and can share lessons-learned.

The first priority area for our cooperation efforts is agriculture/rural development. Our goal is to contribute to the reduction of poverty by providing assistance to increase the productivity of rice production. Let me touch upon three concrete projects.

The first is the Project for Rice Productivity Improvement in Central Highland.

As I understand, Madagascar is one of largest consumers of rice in Africa. 70 percent of farmers in the country grow rice. However, domestic rice production is prone to climate fluctuations caused by events such as cyclones. As a result, Madagascar is not fully self-sufficient and must import 10 percent of the rice it consumes. To mitigate the realities of food insecurity, the government of Madagascar has aimed to increase production by 300 percent within 10 years of 2008.

Rice has long been a staple of the Japanese diet too, and Japan has long tradition of rice farming. The country has accumulated knowledge in rice production and has developed a number of techniques to increase productivity. One of our flagship initiatives in Africa is the "Coalition for African Rice Development," or CARD, which seeks to double rice production in African within the span of 10 years through increased productivity.

In Madagascar specifically, JICA initiated the Project for Rice Productivity Improvement in Central Highland (PAPRIZ) in 2009 to increase rice production in the densely populated central highlands area. JICA has been working on seed propagation, improving the seed distribution system, creating a coaching system to disseminate rice production techniques and the development of an integrated technical package to improve yield.

As a result of the project, rice production in some targeted areas has doubled or tripled. The focus now is on further dispersing improved rice cultivation techniques targeting small-scale farmers. We are also working on sharing agricultural management know-how to farmers through irrigation association activities, as well as through the implementation of joint purchases and joint marketing efforts.

Upon learning about the positive results yielded by this project, the number of famers interested in adopting the improved cultivation techniques increased. Improving yields could turn subsistence farmers into farmers producing for local market sale or even export. The acronym "PAPRIZ" has become synonymous with JICA in certain regions.

In addition to PAPRIZ, we have also implemented a project which aims to promote environmental restoration and rural development in Morarano Chrome.

Madagascar suffers from severe deforestation, causing excessive number of Lavakas in hilly and mountainous areas. These Lavakas cause deposition, hampering the productive use of downstream land. In order to promote environmentally friendly development, this JICA project aims to improve the living standards of the local population by disseminating inputs for income-generating activities that do not further damage the hilly and mountainous areas.

This project truly adopts a "bottom-up approach" in analyzing the real needs of each region and village, and in providing the population with appropriate techniques to develop context-specific strategies to conserve the environment and improve their standard of living.

A third example of our projects in the agriculture sector is Seikatsu Kaizen. Seikatsu Kaizen literally means "life improvement," and it is an approach whereby one seeks to find solutions to existing problems of one's daily life through locally available resources. JICA has been promoting this approach in Madagascar since 2008. An illustrative example is that of an officer from Madagascar's Ministry of Agriculture. He participated in a program in Japan and learned about Japan's approach to rural agriculture. During his participation in the program, he developed an action plan, and he implemented it on his return to Madagascar. His approach has gained traction in neighboring areas, reaching over 8,000 households in two regions.

JICA's second priority area in Madagascar is infrastructure. One example of our work is the feasibility study of the Toamasina Port Development. The expansion of the Port of Toamasina would not only respond to the recent growing need for container yards or baths, it would also help support private sector investment in Madagascar. JICA had temporarily suspended the feasibility study because of the 2009 political crisis, but the study has now resumed. We are happy to be involved in the assessment stage of this potential project that could respond to the increasing demand for a well-equipped international port.

Our third priority area is social development, with a focus on basic education. Education is central to development and can, in the long-term, provide a stable basis for sustainable development. Concretely, we are supporting the construction of primary schools. As the Government of Madagascar has made improving the quality of primary education a national priority, we are happy to be part of an important effort to make basic education more effective and meaningful for children.

Needless to say, Madagascar's ownership of these projects and commitment to good governance are necessary to secure the highest impact of each project. More importantly, it is critical in ensuring that development occurs in a sustainable manner. Today, I talked a lot about Japan's history. It is a distinct history. It may not directly compare to that of Madagascar. But I hope that our experience is at least interesting to you. From our experiences, we are convinced that good governance is critical. When Japan failed in its management of civil-military relations, it stumbled into war and destruction. When the country adopted a peaceful outlook and established political stability, Japan went through a period of rapid economic growth, albeit with many shortcomings. As a result of economic growth, Japan was one of the first countries who suffered from terrible air and water pollution. But with its peaceful orientation and stable and democratic governance, the government made necessary policy measures to eradicate both air and water pollution.

Following the democratic election, and in this period of pursuing political stability, Madagascar is in an advantageous position to capitalize the Indo-Pacific's dynamism. Madagascar and Japan, two great island countries in the Indo-Pacific, now more than ever before, have a great opportunity to cooperate. As an implementing agency of international cooperation of an island country in the Northern Indo-Pacific, JICA is committed to spearheading Japan's efforts of cooperation in this great island country in the Southern Indo-Pacific.

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