DEC 16 –
Ishizuka Kenji is deputy director at South Asia Division 4 of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Kenji is responsible for Nepal and Bangladesh at JICA headquarters in Tokyo. Mukul Humagain caught up with Kenji in Tokyo to talk about JICA’s operations in Nepal and its future assistance plans. Excerpts:
Since Japan has resumed yen loans to Nepal, what would be the future areas of assistance from JICA?
JICA’s overall assistance strategy for Nepal is “Achievement of Equitable and Sustainable Growth”, and has set up three priorities as “infrastructure and institutional development for sustainable economic growth”, “consolidation of peace and steady transition to a democratic state”, and “rural poverty reduction”. In these priorities, particular emphasis of yen loan is upon hydro power and transport infrastructure.
With the resumption of yen loans, will there be any change in JICA’s priority with regard to assistance to Nepal?
There are no changes in the priorities and JICA considers the above mentioned areas for yen loan as important.
JICA last year agreed to give loan to Tanahu Hydro Power. Are there more loans in the cards for hydropower projects in Nepal?
In consideration of the serious power shortage situation in Nepal, hydropower development is one of the priority areas for us to support. The master plan study for hydropower development is currently underway through JICA technical cooperation.
With the Constituent Assembly election now over and a new government all set to be formed, Nepal is looking for much-needed political stability. In that scenario, will Japanese aid to Nepal increase in the near future?
JICA considers the process to democratic state and successful formulation of a new constitution are key important issues for the economic development of Nepal. In view of this situation, JICA supports democratic process and considers its continuous assistance.
Is JICA satisfied with the way Nepal has utilised Japanese assistance? How do you review JICA’s past investment and track record in Nepal?
Japan is one of the leading donors for Nepal, providing the most cumulative amount of assistance since 1960s, both in terms of net and disbursement basis. We consider Japanese assistance has contributed to the development of Nepal not only in quantity but also quality. In most cases, Nepal has utilised Japanese assistance effectively and efficiently.
For instance, the Sindhuli Road project which will be completed on March, 2015, is one of the projects with a significant impact after 20 years of continuous grant assistance by the Japanese government. The road has been constructed by Japanese contractor, which will be a good model for Nepal of road construction in hilly and mountainous areas. The Kathmandu-Baktapur road is also a good example which has contributed to not only traffic improvement but also economic development of Nepal with high quality and technical standard by Japanese contractor.
What are the distinctive characteristics of Japan’s ODA (official development assistance) loans and grants? How do developing countries evaluate ODA loans?
JICA assists and supports developing countries as the executing agency of Japanese ODA through ODA loans, grant aid and technical cooperation. JICA respects the ownership of developing countries and enhance the mutual understanding, good bilateral relationship, and human exchange not only through financial assistance but also dispatching Japanese experts, consultants, volunteers, and receiving Nepalese government officials to Japan every year.
One of the major concerns of donors is the Nepal government’s ability to utilise aid. What do you have to say on this? One of the major projects where JICA has given assistance is Melamchi Drinking Water Project. However, this project is yet to be completed and has faced so many controversies over the year.
The contract for civil work was concluded after 13 years from loan agreement in spite of all the issues in the past by efforts of both sides. It is very much important for resolving the water issue of Kathmandu to secure steady implementation and meet the deadline for the completion of construction work within 27 months.
However, as for the Nepal Government’s ability, there are some lessons through JICA’s past experience. For instance, the report of ex-post evaluation for “Agricultural Training and Extension Improvement Project” pointed out some problems as “at the level of the implementing agency, the approaches introduced by the Project were not incorporated in the agency, there were no specific implementation strategies, and no budget provisions were taken”. Budget and human resource allocation after the projects are key issues to enhance the sustainability and ability of Nepal Government.
What would be JICA’s initiative when it comes to the Nepali private sector?
It is good, but a challenging question for us. As the political situation stabilises and more private sector activity intensifies, there will be more possibilities of support in the future.
Many people say capacity building of the people and transfer of technology is Japan’s main development mantra. How is this concept being programmed in the Nepali context?
There are good examples of the combination of grant aid and technical cooperation in the Transportation Infrastructure Improvement Programme; Tribhuvan International Airport Modernization Project (grant aid to provide the airport surveillance radar) and the Project for the Development of a Spare Parts Management Centre and En-route Radar Control Services.
It aims not only to provide the equipment, but also to support capacity building of radar control in the airport, O&M capacity building for the airport related spare parts management centre.
Similarly, there is an integrated support such as the Sindhuli Road Construction Project (grant aid) and the Project for the Operation and Maintenance of Sindhuli Road (technical cooperation). The latter is especially formulated to enhance the capacity of O&M in regard with Sindhuli road.
Source : The KathmanduPost