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Capacity development in health sector is new focus: Watanabe Kozo

In March this year, Watanabe Kozo assumed the role of Chief Representative of JICA Bhutan. He spoke to Kuensel’s Reporter Choki Wangmo on his plans and aspirations during his three-year tenure.

A brief background about you before you became the Chief Representative of JICA Bhutan Office.

I have 25 years of experience with JICA as international cooperation staff. For 10 years, I worked for health sector cooperation in Asia, Pacific, Africa, and Latin America.

As a part of long-term assignment for overseas programme in JICA, I worked for six years in Vietnam and Cambodia as a JICA expert for the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Centre.

Bhutan is the third country for my long-term assignment.


How do you plan to use your long years of experience under the cooperation?

I would use my long years of experience in the health sector to actively work towards human resource development. There were requests from the government seeking support in health facilities and technical support but Japan did not approve it yet. We are working on the approval process. I really want to work on sharing ideas and cooperation among health officials from Bhutan and Japan.

I can also use my skills to bring in organisational and management change in Bhutan. These good practices from Japanese companies, such as 5S and Y-GAYA are internationally recognised for its effectiveness.

Five Ss, called Kaizen in Japanese, strives to bring continuous quality improvement through the concept—sort, set, shine, standardise and sustain. Organisations need to improve working environment and management every day so that employees are satisfied and motivated.

It should start from organising the physical environment through orderliness, cleanliness, implementation and discipline. 5S improves service delivery and saves time.

The second concept in organisational management is Y-GAYA. It embraces active communication, collaboration and positive interaction among workers. Such soft skill is useful in the international cooperation activities, office management with Bhutanese and Japanese staff. I am willing to introduce these concepts at any occasions as requested.


What is your impression of the country?

People are kind and respect the culture and religion. Nature and plant species in

Thimphu is similar to Japan. Nature in the South is similar to Cambodia.


Your predecessor said that he couldn’t do anything in the health sector. What cooperation do you see in the sector during your tenure?

JICA worked for health sector in several projects like improvement of medical equipment at the regional referral hospitals and the national hospital.  Installation of precision high grade CT scanners is expected to enhance diagnostic services at JDWNRH and regional hospitals in Mongar and Gelephu.

During my tenure, I will try to expand capacity development for health human resource development.

As of April this year, JICA has about six on-going projects in different parts of the country in horticulture development, community engagement, infrastructure development, disaster management, and health.

Besides cooperation in agriculture, technology, and human resource development, what possible cooperation areas do you see during your tenure?

Bhutan and Japan can particularly cooperate in areas of waste management and giving opportunities and support to young entrepreneurs in the country. Young entrepreneurs need skills development and opportunities so that unemployed youth are attracted in entrepreneurship.

In Cambodia and Vietnam, I worked as an expert in business sector development and gave business skills training. In Bhutan, the culture is different and not receptive to such training centres. Integration of culture with modern progress would enhance youth engagement in business.


The government is emphasising on clean energy and waste management. Do you see any opportunity for cooperation in these sectors?

The ongoing cooperation on drafting power sector master plan will identify many potential hydropower plants across the country by the end of this year.

At the grassroots level, JICA in partnership with other development partners will transfer appropriate technology for solid waste management in Thimphu. This project will help city officials to involve with communities to reduce waste through segregation, composting, and strengthen recycling initiatives.

However, collaboration with other partners is necessary so that programmes are successful.


In the past, there were incidences of JICA volunteers facing challenges in the country. How is it addressed?

As of now, we have about 30 volunteers in the country in education, technical institutes, special education, health and social workers. The volunteers were provided based on the request from the government for a period of two years.

Volunteers faced challenges mainly with improper infrastructures and non-cooperation from their counterparts which created unpleasant working environment. But we are working for people. When such misunderstandings occurred, JICA intervened and informed the responsible agencies.


Any other thoughts?

In 2011, His Majesty the King and the Gyaltshuen visited Japan in the aftermath of great earthquake and tsunami, which affected certain areas and prayed for the victims. Japanese people remember the event well with sincere gratitude.

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