FOR the past 31 years, Saint Lucia has been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in grants and technical assistance from the government and people of Japan. That bilateral relationship has produced many benefits for Saint Lucia, most notably among them being the improved infrastructure of the island’s fisheries sector. However, such benefits are now being curtailed by the Japanese government as Tokyo mulls any future assistance to the island.
Speaking at a symposium held in Japan on November 17 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of that country’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) programme, Japan’s Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida, said that in light of Japan’s continued financial constraints a drastic reduction in its overseas aid package became necessary.
Kishida added that in order to do so Japan will now be strategically targeting any future overseas aid package that falls within the ambits of peace, human rights, prosperity, and involvement of the private sector. He said that private sector growth was vital if any sustained development is to be achieved.
“I think (that) in an age like this,” Kishida said, “the ODA has its role to play which is not just the distribution of funds…The future of ODA is to link (the) private sector to quality growth.”
Over the years, Japan has been using the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to determine what level of assistance to dispatch to Caribbean territories. According to President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Dr. Akihiko Tanaka, some CARICOM members have surpassed the scope of aid. Nevertheless, he said Caribbean territories can still request assistance from Japan “based upon conversations between JICA staff and the officials in the partner country.”
Earlier this week, The VOICE spoke to Minister for External Affairs, Alva Baptiste, who was among CARICOM Foreign Ministers who met their Japanese counterpart in Japan last week. The Minister said that because countries around the world were feeling the effects of globalization and other challenges, they are being forced to redefine their national priorities. Nevertheless, he said the Tokyo talks were fruitful.
“We had some very significant deliberations and we are looking forward to greater strides in terms of climate change, sustainable development and even support for us where this whole concept of graduation and differentiation is concerned,” Baptiste said.
Baptiste said that since Saint Lucia and other CARICOM countries’ GDP per capita is higher than some Eastern European countries, the Japanese felt the need “to graduate us to upper middle income countries by saying we no longer qualify for that type of support.” He added that given that scenario, crucial changes needed to be made domestically, including Saint Lucians demonstrating to the outside world that they are prepared to make adjustments based on the global scenario.
“Many times I’m confronted with questions about Saint Lucia. I mean, even in terms of the public officers and what is happening in the country, they’re sensitive to those things and would ask (whether) we’re prepared to make sacrifices because they’ve made sacrifices. A lot of countries in Europe made certain adjustments and they give us support. In fact, that’s our number one development partner. So we have to take the necessary action when we have to, but at the same time we need to be conscious of how the outside world is viewing us.”