Using Japanese experiences for the prosperity of Asian neighbors "Legislative exchange with Asian countries"
Helping Asian nations making use of Japanese policies
Focusing on Asian nations' legislators who have few opportunities to visit Japan, the SPF has offered a program for "legislative exchange with Asian countries" for five years starting in 2009. So far, parliamentarians mainly from Cambodia and Mongolia have been invited, 5 to 6 of them at a time, on the condition that they are a non-partisan group.
Cambodia is one of the least developed countries with the per-capita GDP below US $1,000. Civil war and economic instability have inhibited its growth. Following the end of the civil war, international organizations and industrialized neighbors have been stepping up their development support. The SPF was also considering extending some form of assistance.
Mongolia, on the other hand, has close ties with the SPF, nurtured through past initiatives. This program provides a new development area of support in terms of continuous legislative exchange.
Determined to help them learn Japanese policies and reflect the knowledge to their respective countries' future, the SPF defined areas requiring assistance for each of the countries, such as agriculture, education, and energy, and organized a variety of programs including exchanging opinions with political, financial and bureaucratic leaders of Japan, and inspecting sites in line with specific themes.
After leaving Japan, participants actively offered feedback to their respective governments, submitting a report including recommendations, and organizing a briefing for officials from relevant government offices.
Parliamentarians with suitable qualifications as future leaders were selected to take part, with past participants subsequently assuming prominent positions such as the Deputy Prime Minister (Cambodia) and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (Mongolia).
Addressing pressing issues specific to each country
In the case of Cambodia, the country has managed to enter into a growth phase, some twenty years after the end of the civil war. Yet, the loss of most intellectuals under the Pol Pot regime has created difficulty in fostering excellent human resources. Local universities did not have the faculty of education, making its establishment an urgent task to be addressed. In an education-themed invitation program, participants heard information about a teacher development course at Hiroshima University's Faculty of Education. After a Q&A session, they had an informal gathering with Cambodian students studying in Japan.
The country also faces numerous challenges with respect to the development of social infrastructures. The scale of power generation operation remains particularly small with underdeveloped facilities for power transmission and distribution. The ratio of Cambodian households with electricity access is still as low as 20.1% (2009). This is why a group of participating Cambodian parliamentarians sought information about the Japanese arrangement structure for stable power supplies and alternative energies. In response, inspection tours primarily on power generation were organized.
In 2014, Cambodian delegates inspected the AEON Lake Town mall (Koshigaya City) to learn about the AEON group, which was opening its first mall in Cambodia.
For Mongolia, air pollution and traffic congestion are major issues. The challenge is to achieve economic development while paying considerations to environmental conservation. Mongolian delegates were therefore provided with programs focusing on "environmentally-considerate urban development," in an example of the SPF's flexible approach to accommodating individual countries' needs.
Citing Japan's failed examples to help participants avoid making the same mistakes
One of the main features of this program is the offer of lessons that have been learned the hard way. With regard to the said Mongolian theme on "environmentally-considerate urban development," actual Japanese cases were examined to discuss the use of coal and resulting pollution in urban Mongolia. The period of pressure-free "Yutori" education in Japan in the early 2000s and its adverse effects were also highlighted in an approach of reviewing Japan's own failures and giving participants an opportunity to contemplate the optimum option for their own countries, thereby helping them avoid making the same mistakes.
The "legislative exchange with Asian countries" program ended in FY2013. Future SPF visions include inviting opinion leaders from other Asian countries to Japan, organizing exchange with industrialized Asian nations such as Singapore and the Philippines, and running a program comparing Japan with other countries.
By nature, exchange programs do not produce or reflect results immediately. Yet, the network of people nurtured in the process is expected to serve as valuable resources elsewhere in other projects in a rippling effect. It remains to be seen how the connections we have established with participants from Asian neighbors will become reflected to future projects.