TOKYO: Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has assured that its government will continue to pledge assistance to Cambodia’s infrastructure development even though Japan’s economy is affected by the global coronavirus.
Speaking to Khmer Times recently, Endo Satoshi, Deputy Director, First Country Assistant Planning Division, Foreign Affairs Ministry said Cambodia’s neighbouring nations, such as Thailand and Malaysia, have already achieved the status of middle-income countries, so now, it would be difficult for us to extend the project for them. But Cambodia still requires aid assistance for infrastructure development.
“We are making these assistances to promote the development of Cambodia within the Asean community. It would not serve the purpose of the people if it is not sustainable. That is why we provide different forms of assistance”, Mr Satoshi said. “We decide depending on GDP per capita. We wish that there is still room for extending ODA in Cambodia,” he added.
He emphasised that the loans and grants are for projects like upgrading roads, ports, bridges, clean water supply, transmission lines, health, environment and hydro power projects.
Japan holds consultations regularly to set out priority areas based on what the Cambodian government has requested for assistance. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) works closely on projects it extends the assistance to. Japan emphasises on the importance of sustainability after Cambodia pays back all loans, with the projects operated by Cambodians.
According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs report obtained by Khmer Times, from 2013 to 2017, Japan provided loans totalling $357.7 million, grant aid of $503.5 million and technical assistance of $215.5 million to Cambodia for infrastructure projects, including bridges, roads, ports, clean water supply, hospitals and many others. The report said Japan’s assistance priority has moved to strengthening economic foundations such as roads, bridges, ports and agriculture development. Regarding enhancing social development, Japanese assistance focuses on education, health care, water supply systems, demining and UXO clearance.
The strong relationship between the two nations, especially the relationship between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Japan’s Premier Shinzo Abe, started when both sides announced four years ago that it is important to make the “Indo Pacific Region free and open”.
Regarding exports, Japan prioritises connectivity between Japan and the Asean. This includes setting up airports, improving sea ports and improving road infrastructures which are key elements in upgrading the economy in the region and particularly Cambodia, said Mr Satoshi. He added that under ODA projects, rule of law and transparency are necessary for Japan. “We care about the rule of law. So, we have to make the world accountable and foreseeable. If we can’t anticipate what would happen next, then it would not make for a peaceful world,” Mr Satoshi said. In order for Cambodia to do international trading, all goods have to flow very freely within the country and should be exported freely. Japan’s government is interested in the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port as a highly important infrastructure to boost the economy for Japan and strengthen two-way cooperation. As a result of economic cooperation extended to the Sihanoukville port, the port ‘s capacity has doubled. But at the moment, there is still need to strengthen our cooperation because the port is still very much congested. So, Japan wishes to continue to proceed, perhaps to the second and third phases, Mr Satoshi said. He said, it is vital that the logistics should improve in Cambodia. There are various sectors in terms of economic cooperation to which Japan extends aid.“We sent our JICA experts, for example, to Sihanoukville port. They are the ones to provide knowledge and know -how to manage the port’s operations. In the meantime, Cambodians will acquire the knowledge to operate the port by themselves. These are kinds of training required for the sustainable development of the country,” Mr Satoshi said.
“One thing I would like to say, Japan has been a steady partner, continuously extending its assistance to Cambodia. Chinese assistance has significantly grown since 2010, but before that Japan had been a very close partner with Cambodia. And I can assure you that Japan will always be a reliable partner for Cambodia for years to come,” he added.