AIIB standout Japan to earmark US$100 billion for Asian infrastructure: report

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking at a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on May 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking at a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on May 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan will announce a US$100 billion plan to invest in roads, bridges, railways and other building projects in Asia, a report said Tuesday, weeks after China outlined its vision for a new infrastructure development bank in the region.

In the latest twist of a tussle for influence in the fast-growing region, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to unveil the five-year public-private partnership this week, Jiji Press reported.

The sum is in line with the expected US$100 billion capital of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that Beijing and more than 50 founding member states are establishing.

"The envisioned assistance is aimed at demonstrating Japan's stance to contribute to building up high-quality infrastructure in Asia through human resource development and technological transfers and showing the difference from the AIIB, so that Japan can keep a high profile in the region," Jiji said, without naming its sources.

The report comes after Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso said earlier this month at an event hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a long-established body in which Tokyo plays a key role, that Japan was drafting a plan to boost investment in Asian infrastructure.

Japan and the United States were the biggest standouts earlier this year when Beijing began courting members for the AIIB.

Washington led a high-profile, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to disuade allies from taking part in the project, which critics say will not demand the same good-governance and environmental standards imposed by other international bodies, such as the ADB.

But supporters say fears over undue Chinese influence are overblown, and that the participation by more than 50 countries, including ones as diverse as Britain and Iran, will dilute Beijing's power.

Few observers doubt there is a need for billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure in Asia.

The region also offers rich pickings for countries with strong infrastructure industries, like Japan.

Tokyo, in common with other governments, uses loans or grants for big projects as a way of supporting large employers who export power plants, water systems, communication networks, railways and highways.

The money reported Tuesday would come through government-affiliated bodies, such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), as well as the Asian Development Bank, Jiji said.

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