21 January 2013

Liberia: Japan Has Left Us Far Behind - Dep. Foreign Minister

Deputy Foreign Minister for International Corporation and Economic Integration Sando Wayne Thursday (Jan 17) noted the huge economic gap but tight bilateral ties between Japan and Liberia and indicated that even though the Asian nation has left Liberia far behind, relation between the pair has remained unshakable.

Wayne said Liberia has benefitted immensely from the at least 60 years ties both multilaterally and bilaterally and that the west African state can only look forward to maintaining such enviable joint rapport.

"Liberia-Japan relation goes far back as the early 60s and since then the relationship has built up from strength to strength," Wayne stated at programs marking the handover of another Japanese food aid of 10 metric tons of rice. The event took place at the Free Port of Monrovia with Foreign, Commerce, Finance and Planning Ministries officials among others attending.

The Deputy Chief of Mission of the Japanese Embassy in Ghana, with oversight responsibility of Liberia, Shigeru Hamano, flew into the country to officially turnover the consignment which will be monetized, and the proceeds used for any development project(s) of the Liberian Government's choice.

History accounts that Liberia and Japan were the world's two fastest growing economies after the World War 2, but the Deputy Foreign Minister said the gap between the two countries today is quite wide, saying Japan has left Liberia far behind.

"Japan is the third largest economy on planet earth," he continued. "Despite the huge gap over the years, Japan has remained to be a very good friend of Liberia. Even at the height of her national calamity, the people and Government of Japan still honored their commitment to Liberia. That is true friendship, that is genuine, and it further deepens the bilateral relations existing between the two countries and people."

Japan's contribution to Liberia, he furthered, goes beyond food aid. On the multilateral level, up to 2008, Japan donated food aid to Liberia through the World Food Program and other organizations. As of 2008, the assistance shifted to bilateral with Liberia receiving direct food and non-food aids to help rebuild.

Besides, Japan has offered scholarships to numerous senior and junior level officials of government for training as means of building the drained human resource capacity of the country, Wayne noted.

Recently, he furthered, a US$25 million deal was signed with Japan under which a generator will be secured as the cost of Japan to produce 10 additional megawatts of power in Monrovia. "We are hopeful that by the end of the fiscal year, we will get good news from Japan for the implementation and expansion of the Somalia Drive road," he stated.

Wayne then commended the people of Japan for their invaluable contributions to the rebuilding of Liberia, indicating that the Government and people are very happy for the assistance and grateful for the bilateral ties.

Commerce Minister Miata Beysolow whose ministry oversees monetization of the food aid said Japan had always come when it is needed most in helping to take Liberia to another level.

This is the third food aid turning over ceremony, she said, noting that proceeds from the previous have been committed to projects that are helping to transform lives in the country.

Japan's first bilateral food aid was 6,812 metric tons of rice. "It was sold and monetized, with the proceed going into empowering local farmers to produce more food under the auspices of the Agriculture Ministry," said Beysolow. The paddy seed rice crop multiplication program has empowered many farmers, she added.

"As a result of the proper use of the funds generated from the first consignment," she boasted, "Japan made another commitment of 19,101 metric tons of rice plus a non-food aid of petroleum product which was also monetized."

Beysolow explained that the second assistance came at a critical time in 2011, during the elections period, adding, "The Japanese always come at the time we need them most."

Most of the sale proceeds are yet to be received and a project has already been submitted to the Japanese Government for which the fund would be used, the Commerce Minister indicated. "It includes an agriculture project, a road project and an improvement of the national standard lab, and so on."

Many governments are reportedly no longer receiving Japanese food aid because of management problem, but Beysolow said Liberia has done well and is getting more support. "To our amazement, the Japanese Government has already signed with us an agreement for the 4th consignment of rice. We have signed the Exchange of Note but we don't know the quantity which has to be negotiated at a later date."

Commending Japan for the strong collaboration, Beysolow said Liberia will remain committed to sticking to the terms and agreement under which the food aid is coming to Liberia.

The Japanese Deputy Chief of Mission, Hamano, said his country remains fully committed to working in the interest of the ties between the two nations and people.

Liberia, like other African countries, he said, has many development needs including food and nutritional problems, and his country is committed to helping minimize these challenges.

"Food security is one of the key areas of importance in Liberia," Hamano asserted, saying, "this why Japan has supported Liberia both bilaterally and multilaterally over the years."

"The advantage of our bilateral food aid is, not only that the rice is brought by this grant, but also the proceeds of sale will be put into 'the counterpart fund' and the fund will be utilized rather quickly for further development purposes in Liberia," the Japanese envoy explained.

US$4 million is expected to be realized from the sale of the latest consignment, said Hamano, as funds from the previous grant is now being used for purchase and redistribution of paddy rice, introduction of modern farm machineries, among others.

"The successful implementation of previous food aid has given us a boost of confidence in providing more food aid to Liberia," asserted Hamano, noting, "We hope that the Liberian Government will further strengthen the effective implementation of the grant."

Deputy Finance Minister James Kollie said Japanese has come in consistently with both multilateral and bilateral assistance to Liberia, either with food or petroleum aid, to contribute the Liberia's development drive.

He extended thanks and appreciation to the people of Japan for their support to Liberia.

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