IT was unfortunate that the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting in Manila should have closed with a question mark hanging over its future finances. But it was not surprising. The United States' objection to expanding the bank's capital base and its demand that lending to Asia should be slowed down was predictable, even though its motives may be questionable. President Mr Bill Clinton is struggling with a huge inherited deficit, and strong grass roots objections to any increases in taxation. Convincing the electorate to put money into a Manila-based organisation that might be regarded in Middle America as a super-welfare group is not going to improve his already battered image. Then, there is the Washington-based World Bank to consider. When it finds itself on the same turf as the ADB, there cannot be complete harmony on strategies, and as the major shareholder in the World Bank, the US has to fight its corner. What cannot be faulted is a call for a closer watch on ADB lending. Too many of its projects have gone wrong, but then the World Bank's record is far from faultless, too. In the past half century much of the US$300 billion it has lent has been wasted. The US$1 billion that the ADB proposes to advance for infrastructure development in China will have been carefully noted by the hardliners in the Clinton administration who want to use every available stick to hit China's human rights record. The US objection to an immediate easing of policy towards Vietnam, was also predictable. It has to be sold to the US people, many of whom are deeply concerned about the Missing In Action position. But if the embargo is lifted, might it not serve the US best if it was the World Bank which made the first moves? Should the US follow up its objections with an embargo on extra funds for the ADB, it can hardly object if the running is taken up by Asian countries such as Japan and Hongkong.