More wealthy nations must help the ADB

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 May, 1995, 12:00am

WHO will help Asia's poorest? That is set to be the key theme at the three-day Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting which started in Auckland yesterday.

While funding its lending programme is always a key topic inside the ADB, the subject is more urgent than usual this time.

The bank's Asian Development Fund (ADF), used to help Asia's poorer countries, is expected to run out next year if negotiations to infuse more money over the next five years are not held soon.

One main problem threatening the survival of the ADF has been the reluctance of the United States to contribute.

Earlier this week, the US lived up to its global leadership role and cut trade ties with Iran, which is engaged in dangerous nuclear pursuits.

But, as Bangladesh's finance minister rightly pointed out, South Asia's millions of poor people are a 'potent force for socio-political destabilisation' if their plight is not addressed.

The time has come for the US to put its money where its mouth is and fulfil its leadership and monetary obligations.

Sadly, the US has paid only US$243 million, or about 35 per cent, of the total it pledged towards the ADB's soft loan fund for the four years to 1995.

In contrast, Japan has declared it is prepared to increase its contribution.

But Japan should not be allowed to bear the burden on its own. Other wealthy Asian countries must come forward to help.

Poverty remains one of the biggest challenges facing Asia. Two-thirds of the world's 1.2 billion poorest people live in the region.

Besides the US, Japanese Finance Minister Masayoshi Takemura called on Singapore to help. And he's right to do so, given the country's economic progress.

Like the US, and perhaps even more so, given its geographical position, Singapore should extend to its neighbours the helping hand that they so badly need.

There are those who have accused Singapore, perhaps unfairly, of displaying arrogance in its success. The country now has a chance to silence its critics once and for all. For its sake and that of Asia's poor, let's hope it does so.