JICA trains Myanmar officials on ODA loans, disbursements

The Japan International Cooperation Agency is seeking to ensure smooth disbursement of its aid to Myanmar and raise the level of expertise in receiving assistance by holding a seminar specifically for Myanmar officials.

JICA, which is preparing nearly 10 percent of its development funds for Myanmar this year, began a seminar for Myanmar officials for the first time Monday at its training facility in Tokyo.

"This is the very first time for Myanmar officials, numbering 41, to receive a training program in how JICA has been providing ODA loans to developing countries and will focus on enabling trainees to implement the projects effectively and efficiently," Takeharu Kojima, a JICA advisor, told Kyodo News.

"(Before) only one or two officials from Myanmar were allowed to join with other participants from different countries where JICA projects are in progress to take part in such a training program," Kojima of the Southeast Asia and Pacific Department added.

The Japanese government resumed official development assistance to Myanmar last year after having suspended most direct loans following the 1988 establishment of the military government.

Since the policy change prompted by Myanmar's political and economic reforms, Japanese assistance has flooded into Myanmar.

Japan first began assistance to Myanmar in 1954, building the Baluchaung Hydropower Plant in Kayah State.

"We have been providing financial and technical assistance to Myanmar since then," Kojima said.

He said as Myanmar opens up, JICA wants to improve and expand its aid program in the country.

"Nothing is completed yet, but we are trying to make as many good projects as we can for development in Myanmar," he said. "JICA is trying to keep a balance, understanding economic development in Yangon is important and, at the same time, poverty reduction and rural development are also important."

On direct contact with grassroots groups in Myanmar, Kojima said, "Actually, we are not so closely aligned with the civil societies in Myanmar. But some Japanese NGOs have a deep cooperation with their counterparts in Myanmar."

The seminar, which will run through Saturday, includes the orientation of Japan's assistance to Myanmar, a session for environmental and social considerations in implementing development projects, and a field trip to observe highway technology.

Tsutomu Kudo, an aid coordination advisor sent by JICA to Myanmar's Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, said, "This seminar is very important for the Myanmar government to achieve quick wins. Myanmar officials need to get familiar with the process, procedures and guidelines of Japanese ODA loans so that they can smoothly carry out projects and realize tangible results as quickly as possible."

"Our ministries need to have knowledge concerned with ODA loans and procedures. Ministries are preparing to apply for ODA loans," U Soe Myint Tun, deputy director-general of the Agriculture and Irrigation Ministry, who is participating in the seminar, said.

JICA President Akihiko Tanaka said last month in Yangon that Japan's public and private sectors will continue to support Myanmar's efforts to promote democratization, rule of law, economic reform and national reconciliation.

Kojima, one of the briefers at the seminar, added that after Myanmar's 2015 general election, JICA will go on through consultations with the Myanmar government, stressing that JICA's cooperation would not be affected by the results of the election as long as Myanmar is going in the right direction.

To ensure smooth implementation of JICA loans, Kojima said similar seminars for Myanmar officials may be held annually.