Japan's official development assistance : its shape and implications for recipients : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies, Massey University
Japan's ODA programme is surrounded by controversy regarding the motives that propel it forward and the degree to which it meets recipient needs. This study hopes to add to the debate regarding Japanese ODA by uncovering those factors that shape Japan's contemporary aid activities and to interpret their implications for recipients. Rather than adhering to any one particular view of Japan's international relations to explain Japanese ODA, an inductive approach is used to identify the contextual mix in which aid policy is formulated. Japan's cultural legacy and development experience are found to define the broad boundaries that ODA policy must operate within and these factors continue to colour Japan's unique brand of foreign aid. An analysis of the evolution of Japan's contemporary aid programme also shows that ODA has been used to promote Japan's national interests in a variety of ways as international circumstances have changed. Economic and security needs have played influential roles in the size and direction of aid flows throughout the evolution of Japan's aid programme. More recently, a growing desire for an international leadership role explains why Japan's ODA programme continues to expand at a time when many other major donors are suffering 'aid fatigue'. Although Japan's ODA activities undoubtedly promote the country's foreign interests, this study has also found that the aid programme has undergone a process of reform to better attune aid to recipient needs. The quality of Japanese ODA has steadily improved over time and many popular development themes have been incorporated into Japan's ODA policy. A desire to present Japan as a responsible member of the international community, combined with ideological development as Japan's aid agencies have gained greater experience, are used to explain this reform process. Previous studies of Japan's ODA programme have largely been a study of Japan as a donor with little consideration given to the impact of aid activities on recipients. To help fill this void a case study of Bangladesh was undertaken and Japanese projects, project evaluations and country reports analysed. In this study the empowerment approach was used to identify how appropriate and effective Japanese aid is in assisting impoverished peoples in Bangladesh. The findings were that, despite the extent of reform in Japan's aid policy, aid practice in Bangladesh is dominated by Japan's traditional aid activities, that is, the construction of large-scale economic infrastructure projects. An analysis of Bangladesh's recent development history reveals that the production-based, trickle-down growth strategy that these aid activities are founded upon has little to offer the poor. In contrast, this thesis suggests that the poor will only be included as active agents in the development process when they have been politically, socially and economically empowered. Recent reforms within the Japanese ODA programme make it more receptive to the needs of the poor. However, it is likely that Japan's national interests, rather than those of the poor, will remain the main determinants in shaping aid activities.