By Sakakibara Ken
A total of 196 billion yen in government official development assistance grant aid already allocated for projects in developing countries has yet to be delivered by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to the recipient countries, sources revealed on Oct. 20. The main reason for the delay is the domestic circumstances in the target countries. Some of the disbursements have been detained by JICA for more than ten years. The Ministry of Finance (MOF) will request the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees JICA, to take steps to remedy the situation.
The situation was revealed on Oct. 20 at a meeting of the Fiscal System Council, a MOF expert panel. Grant aid is part of the government’s official development assistance (ODA), which finances infrastructure improvement and food aid in developing nations. According to MOF, JICA has halted the delivery of the funds for 310 projects since 2008, due to such reasons as delay in local construction.
The detained funds exceeded the amount of grand aid the government allocated in FY2020 (162.8 billion yen). “That kind of money could have been used elsewhere,” said a senior MOF official, criticizing the inefficient use of Japan’s national budget.
Sometimes, development projects funded by grant aid are delayed due to local circumstances, such as political unrest and natural disaster. However, almost 40% of the funds held up by JICA had been allocated to projects that have stalled for three years or more. One project in Yemen to improve water supply has been left unfinished for ten years since the time grant was allocated. When JICA plans a project with a recipient country, it often does not stipulate what procedures would be taken in the case of project delay.
“In some cases, funds left undelivered for over a certain period of time should be reviewed, with the possibility of returning them to the government coffers,” says Doi Takero, a professor at Keio University and member of the Fiscal System Council, at a press conference.
“Grant aid is concluded between central governments,” explained JICA’s public relations department in response to an Asahi Shimbun inquiry. “JICA cannot make decisions about what to do with such funds.”