BANGKOK — Japan’s foreign minister announced a USD$7 billion (244 billion baht) initiative Monday to promote development in the Mekong region, which encompasses parts of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand through which the river flows.
In a speech at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Fumio Kishida affirmed the importance of Southeast Asia’s economic prosperity to Japan. He pledged JPY750 billion (USD$7 billion) in funding over the next three years to support development and growth in the region.
The initiative will help promote “connectivity” within Southeast Asian countries and Japan through funding in infrastructure and development of human resources. Thailand has become a key manufacturing and export hub for Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda.
“Invigorating the flow of goods and people by connecting the region through roads, bridges and railways is indispensable for promoting economic development,” he said, adding that Japan’s cooperation will go beyond just building infrastructure.
Over the next three years, “we will make use of funds amounting to JPY750 billion toward cooperation with the Mekong region,” Kishida said. Specific details have not been announced but he said Japan would like to work together with the Mekong countries to create a framework to support the various efforts, including regional issues and theme-oriented support, in a detailed manner.
“I am expecting the day when, as a result of these efforts, I can depart from Bangkok eastward in the morning and arrive in Ho Chi Minh City at night and enjoy pho for dinner,” he said.