ADB gets back on track with fresh poverty focus

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 February, 1999, 12:00am

Just 18 days into the job, new Asian Development Bank president Tadao Chino of Japan has announced plans for a major shake-up at the multilateral lending agency.

Mr Chino, who played a key role in the ADB's creation, wants to return it to its roots and refocus its energies on poverty reduction.

'This will now be its overall acting goal,' he said at his first press conference yesterday. He also wants to make the ADB more efficient and productive.

His policy changes follow criticism the ADB has lost its way recently, placing too much emphasis on becoming a broad-based development agency to rival the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. Some of its officials have been criticised for laziness and extravagance.

Despite widespread hardship brought on by the regional economic slump, the ADB provided loans to just six poverty-alleviation projects in Asia last year, worth US$435 million in total.

This compares with its total lending last year of $5.98 billion, yet poverty alleviation was the Philippine-based agency's founding goal.

In recent years, most of its funds have gone to finance infrastructure and environmental projects, and economic growth, human resource development and women's programmes.

Bank officials said the ADB would lend between $6.5 billion and $7.5 billion this year, up from $5.98 billion last year. This was likely to include increased aid to Indonesia, Mr Chino said.

The ADB also would manage $3 billion from Japan's Miyazawa Fund to guarantee sovereign bonds issued by cash-strapped Asian nations to help them get more attractive spreads.

Mr Chino said he thought the regional financial crisis had hit rock bottom and was poised for modest recovery, but said continuing financial-sector reform was needed to provide a platform for sustainable growth.

'Growth in Asia will recover. It will, however, be much below the pre-crisis level in 1999,' he said.

Mr Chino said he saw no need for a devaluation of the yuan this year and praised Beijing for its restraint.

However, the mainland faced 'severe challenges' in restructuring its finance sector and state-run enterprises, including its cash-strapped trust and investment corporations.

'I hope they can succeed in these challenges,' he said.