Ambassador of Japan Shin Maruo: Kyrgyzstan needs personnel dreaming and striving to improve their home country
Bishkek (AKIpress) - The 20th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Japan and Kyrgyzstan is marked this year. For this period the Government of Japan provided assistance to the Kyrgyz Republic worth around half a billion U.S. dollars. The strategy of Japan for the Central Asian countries, concrete assistance projects, presence of Japanese business were discussed in interview with Ambassador of Japan to Kyrgyzstan Shin Maruo.
- What is the strategy of the Government of Japan for the Central Asian countries and Kyrgyzstan in particular?
- Japan pays a particular attention to its relations with the Central Asia located in the important geopolitical area in Eurasia. From this perspective, the Central Asia + Japan Dialogue from created in 2004 at the initiative of Japan with the Central Asian states. Japan finds it important to advance the regional cooperation to ensure stability and prosperity of Central Asia via collaborative solution of common problems of the region. As part of this Dialogue Japan intends to play a role of catalyst for facilitation of the interregional cooperation. The fourth Foreign Ministerial Council within the Central Asia + Japan Dialogue is planned in Tokyo this autumn.
We intend to deepen cooperation in the following 5 spheres: (1) environmental protection, energy saving and renewable energy sources, (2) achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and reduction of economic gaps, (3) cooperation aimed at bringing stability to Afghanistan, (4) cooperation aimed to prevent natural disasters, (5) trade and investments.
As for bilateral relations between Japan and Kyrgyz Republic, our countries enjoy very warm relations since Kyrgyzstan gained sovereignty.
The Embassy of Japan opened in Bishkek in 2003. The status of the Embassy was heightened in 2010 and the Ambassador of Japan to Kyrgyzstan based in Bishkek was appointed. The 20th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Japan and Kyrgyzstan is marked this year. I am confident this significant date will give impetus to further expansion of bilateral relations.
The Parliamentary Group of Friendship with the Kyrgyz Republic was created in Japan last June. The interparliamentary exchange is important for deepening of the mutual understanding between two nations. During the last presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan the members of the above mentioned group visited Kyrgyzstan as international observers. The members of the Friendship Group with Japan of the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan will visit Japan in early April.
After the devastating quake in eastern Japan last March, we received sincere condolences and assistance from the people of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan was first among Central Asian countries to airlift humanitarian aid to Japan. I would like to take this opportunity to express gratitude one more time.
- What are assistance priorities of the Government of Japan for the Kyrgyz Republic? Is there concrete budget assistance?
The assistance plan for the Kyrgyz Republic was approved in April 2009. The given plan consists of 3 priorities: creation of basic conditions for economic growth, assistance for social sector and encouragement of regional cooperation.
According to Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2010 Japan was the fourth biggest donor of Kyrgyzstan following Turkey, U.S. and Germany. For instance, in 2010 our Government transferred $23.16 million to Kyrgyzstan in assistance.
Since Kyrgyzstan gained sovereignty, Japan continuously provides support to Kyrgyzstan in development of democracy and market economy. The overall size of assistance from 1992 to 2010 reached around half a billion U.S. dollars.
- Could you please name the most successful projects in 2011 in Kyrgyzstan or earlier realized with financial support of the Government of Japan?
The projects of the Government of Japan are implemented by the Embassy of Japan, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency and international organizations.
Thus, the Embassy of Japan runs the Grassroots and Human Security Grant Assistance Program and Small Grant Program in the sphere of culture. Five projects were realized in 2009 with support of the Grassroots and Human Security Assistance Program, 10 projects in 2010 and 15 in 2011. The projects were mainly targeted at health care sector and education. One of successful projects was improvement of infrastructure in Petrovskaya specialized boarding school in Chui region, which supported renovation and special equipment. The JICA volunteer works in the given boarding school.
The grant contracts were recently signed with 2 theaters in Osh city – Osh National Drama Theater and Osh Uzbek Academic Theater. These two theaters received sound equipment. The theaters are supposed to stage performances aimed to nurture peaceful and respectful relations between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in southern Kyrgyzstan.
One of recent projects of JICA supported equipment for road maintenance in Chui and Issyk-Kul regions for around $12 million, when 144 equipment items were handed over.
The assistance of the Government of Japan also comes through international organizations- UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM, ADB, WB, EBRD. One of such projects included construction of transitional homes to accommodate victims of the tragic events of June 2010 in southern Kyrgyzstan for some $7 million through UNHCR, automation of border management system in Kyrgyzstan for $1.6 million through IOM. The exchange notes were signed on March 19 with UNICEF on rehabilitation of education institutions in southern Kyrgyzstan with $4.9 million assistance from the Government of Japan.
- Presence of the Japanese business is very limited in Kyrgyzstan. Why?
Stability is necessary for development of business ties. I think corruption is another reason why Japanese companies do not come to Kyrgyzstan.
After the April 2010 events Kyrgyzstan is moving along the path of democratic development overcoming various difficulties. We believe the economic potential among the countries is not used to a full degree. The Embassy makes efforts for intensification of the economic relations between Japan and Kyrgyzstan. This also includes symposiums on economic development and attraction of investments.
As for private business, 2 Japanese stores opened in Bishkek last year: Japan Style and Japan World. Besides, opening of the Toyota dealer center will take place in Bishkek this April. Many Japanese companies are interested in Kyrgyzstan.
- Do you think attraction of tourists from Japan to Kyrgyzstan is promising?
The first international marathon of Kyrgyzstan with Japanese runners is planned this May at the initiative and with support of the Japanese Parliamentary Group of Friendship with Kyrgyzstan. The members of the organizational committee include the National Olympic Committee and the Field and Track Athletics Federation of Kyrgyztsan, oblast administration of Issyk-Kul oblast. Such events also contribute to visit of more tourists to Kyrgyzstan.
The Embassy also makes efforts to advance tourist industry in Kyrgyzstan through organization of seminars on tourism development with participation of tour operators. Two similar seminars were held in Kyrgyzstan upon my appointment as the Ambassador.
- Volunteers from Japan work in Kyrgyzstan. Where they may work and what is the process of selection of volunteers to work in Kyrgyzstan in general?
At present, 29 volunteers from Japan work in Bishkek and regions of the country, who work in universities, hospitals, boarding schools, NGOs, society for people with visual and hearing impairments, local government bodies. I would like to note one volunteer, who works under One Village One Product Project making soap in Tasma village, Issyk-Kul region.
Volunteers also take an active part in cultural events of the Embassy of Japan – Japanese Culture Week, Japan Days. Besides, volunteers teach Japanese language in the Japanese center and other universities of Kyrgyzstan.
- Kyrgyzstan is still in search of its key to success. What would you recommend for citizens and government of the Kyrgyz Republic in this uneasy process?
We highly value the efforts of Kyrgyzstan aimed at democratic development. Most countries of the world are democratic countries. Stability and democratic foundations are very important for Kyrgyzstan. I think several things will allow Kyrgyzstan to succeed:
1) Adoption of the experience and knowledge of other countries. It is necessary to learn on mistakes of others. Thus, Japan sent delegations of civil servants in Western countries in the 19th century to study the experience of the European civilization.
2) Creation of the bureaucratic system not dependent upon political changes. Officials will be recruited into government agencies through tough exams so that only educated, gifted people regardless of their income levels may work in government. Personnel dreaming of and striving to improve their home country are necessary.
3) Eradication of corruption. Unfortunately, corruption exists in all countries, it is impossible to attract investments into the country without resolution of this problem. I believe Kyrgyzstan is moving on the way of eradication of corruption and establishment of principles of honesty and fairness.
4) Industrial development policy contributing to creation of work places. After the WW II Japan stimulated development of car making industry, in 1980-s customs duties from foreign cars to Japan were zero. I think efforts of Kyrgyzstan in boosting tourism, information technologies would yield good results.
5) Culture issues. Culture always attracts masses. It is necessary to allocate funds for development of culture.
Kyrgyzstan is a country of the sun, clean water and promising human resources. I am confident bright future awaits Kyrgyzstan.
- Thank you very much for very interesting interview!