HIGHLIGHTS

  • Born 57 years ago into the family of a newspaper executive, Dr. Saburo Okita’s career in economics was preceded by study of electrical engineering at Tokyo University. His lifetime interest in development was aroused while working as an engineer in China on electric power sources during World War II. As a staff member of the Research Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he helped draft Japan’s economic rehabilitation program during the Allied Occupation.
  • Dr. OKITA recognized the uncomfortable reality that for the less developed nations of East, Southeast and South Asia, the emergence of post war Japan as the world’s third most powerful industrial state holds both a threat and a promise. He sought to deal with them constructively by advancing sound policies for his country’s strategy for balanced, long-term growth and labored to initiate and expand Japanese economic aid.
  • He brought his experience, grasp of regional economic needs, and character has encouraged in Japan a more liberal, mutually beneficial attitude toward her neighbors. He held various positions such as the head of the Research Section of the Economic Stabilization Board, the first Japanese official of the United Nations when he joined the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in Bangkok, different senior positions within the Economic Planning Agency, head of the Japan Economic Research Center and President of the newly created International Development Center of Japan.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his sustained and forceful advocacy of genuine Japanese partnership in the economic progress of her Asian neighbors.”

 CITATION

For the less developed nations of East, Southeast and South Asia, emergence of postwar Japan as the world’s third most powerful industrial state holds both a threat and a promise. They can either become merely suppliers of Japan’s raw materials and markets for her manufactures, or they can march apace in the common conquest of material lags that hobble their cultural well-being.

More is at issue than economic equity and the expectations of Asia’s one-half of humanity who feel left behind. Should Japan’s headlong progress continue to outstrip the rest of Asia at an ever accelerating rate, the resulting tensions can only prove disastrous for all. Neither sound economics nor lasting cooperation can be built on such disparities.

Dr. OKITA has recognized these uncomfortable realities and sought to deal with them constructively. Born 57 years ago into the family of a newspaper executive, his career in economics was preceded by study of electrical engineering at Tokyo University. His lifetime interest in development was aroused while working as an engineer in China on electric power sources during World War II. Returning home to become a staff member of the Research Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he helped draft Japan’s economic rehabilitation program during the Allied Occupation.

Resigning in 1947 in protest against cumbersome bureaucratic methods, OKITA became increasingly a rallying point for Japanese economists seeking to advance sound policies. He was invited to establish and head the Research Section of the Economic Stabilization Board. After studying economic analysis in Europe, America and India, in 1950 he introduced new methods to his colleagues before becoming, in 1952, the first Japanese official of the United Nations when he joined the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in Bangkok.

Returning to Japan two years later to a succession of senior positions within the Economic Planning Agency, OKITA contributed significantly to his country’s strategy for balanced, long-term growth. Aware of the problems elsewhere in Asia, he labored to initiate and expand Japanese economic aid. In 1963 he left government to head the Japan Economic Research Center and in 1971 he became concurrently the President of the newly created International Development Center of Japan. Through writing, training economists, and providing officials, company executives and journalists with economic information, he worked to enlarge Japan’s consciousness of the Asian and Pacific community of which it must be a part.

OKITA, during his extensive travels and numerous seminars, has freely shared his knowledge with Asian thinkers in work on the Colombo Plan and similar multinational enterprises. His experience, grasp of regional economic needs, and character have encouraged in Japan a more liberal, mutually beneficial attitude toward her neighbors. In the last two decades other Asians, concerned with the future of their own economies and societies, have come to trust OKITA as one of their best friends in Japan.

In electing SABURO OKITA to receive the 1971 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his sustained and forceful advocacy of genuine Japanese partnership in the economic progress of her Asian neighbors.

 RESPONSE

It is indeed a great honor and privilege to myself and to my country to be selected to receive the 1971 Ramon Magsaysay Award. I feel particularly honored because of the fact that the Award was given to me for International Understanding, which is vitally needed by us in Asia.

It was rather fortunate for me to have had the experience of being involved both in the process of Japan’s postwar economic rehabilitation and in the economic development of other Asian countries. Nearly 20 years ago—in 1952 and 1953—I worked in the Secretariat of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) in Bangkok as the first Japanese national to join the UN service. Incidentally, my first visit to the Philippines was in connection with the Trade Promotion Conference held in Manila in 1958. I made that trip as one of the ECAFE Secretariat staff.

After returning to the Government Planning Agency from ECAFE, and while working on domestic economic issues, including preparation of the National Income Doubling Plan, I had occasion to attend various international conferences, seminars and discussions on economic development in Asia. Such occasions have become more frequent since I left government service in 1963 and became President of the Japan Economic Research Center. Early this year the International Development Center of Japan was created and I am now concurrently working as its President. The purpose of this new Center is to assist in development planning and to undertake related studies for developing countries.

As is widely recognized, postwar Japan has made remarkable economic progress. For the past 10 years the average annual rate of economic growth has exceeded 10 percent, and the gross national product reached US$200 billion in 1970, about one-fifth that of the United States. As the population of Japan is approximately half that of the United States, the per capita GNP is about 40 percent of the U.S. per capita GNP.

All this comprises a success story, but it also marks the beginning of new problems. When a man is poor, thrift and hard work may be considered as two of the highest virtues. When a man becomes richer his value may be judged by the way he utilizes his wealth and shares its benefits with others. What is important for us now is to utilize our economic potential for constructive purposes, both at home and overseas. One such measure is to open up our domestic market, which has a total purchasing power of over 200 billion dollars, for the manufactured products of developed and developing countries. The growing shortage of labor and rising wage costs provide natural incentives for replacing domestic products with imported manufactured goods. This is also necessary to prevent price inflation at home which could arise due to higher domestic production costs. Another possibility is to share our experiences in industrial growth and export promotion with developing countries. There is an old Chinese proverb which says, “If you give a man a fish, he can eat fish one time, but if you teach him to catch fish he can eat fish all his life.” Probably the most important contribution Japan can make is to transfer effectively technology for production, management and marketing to developing countries, through the activities of private business and through official development assistance.

There is also the possibility of encouraging development of heavy industries—such as iron and steel—and petrochemical, paper and pulp industries in developing countries. Japan is already overloaded with these industries and there is growing resistance at home to future expansion of such. GNP per acre in Japan is already more than five times that of the United States. There may be some danger that we will be criticized for exporting pollution if we encourage foreign countries to build such industries. However for the developing countries the most serious issues are insufficient employment opportunities and low national income and production levels due to the lack of industries. Thus, the growth and development of industries in the developing countries of Asia should be much more complementary to Japan in the future.

With these thoughts in mind I would very much like to continue my work for promotion of better understanding in Japan and other Asian countries, of the basic problems of development, of the need for closer cooperation among Asian countries and of the eventual goal—attaining prosperity in Asia as a crucial element of world peace and progress.

 BIOGRAPHY

SABURO OKITA was born on November 3, 1914 in Dairen, Liaoning Province, one of the three northeastern provinces of China known as Manchuria. Russia had developed Pare of China but under Russian control, Dairen first as a seaport and the terminus of the Siberian railroad. It had been ceded to Japan at the end of the Russo-Japanese War (1905) and was technically leased from China.

SABURO came from the rising modernized industrial class. His father, Shuji Okita, was President of Ryoto-Shimpo, a newspaper published in Dairen, and after moving to Tokyo in 1928, he starred a carburetor manufacturing company. His mother, Hanako Okita, gave birth to three sons, SABURO being the youngest.

SABURO’s early schooling was in Dairen at the Ohiroba Primary School. In 1927 he left for Japan to attend Tokyo Furitsu Daiichi (Middle School) and later Daiichi Koto Gakko (First High School) from which he graduated in 1934. He entered Tokyo Imperial University the same year and received his degree in electrical engineering from that institution in 1937.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)