- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2004

Asian Development Bank President Tadao Chino, 70, has announced he will retire in January. Mr. Chino helped found the ADB in 1966. The former Japanese Finance Ministry official, who has led the bank for six years as president, introduced its policy of making poverty reduction rather than infrastructure development its main goal. He was interviewed by Marc Lerner for The Washington Times.

Question: Why are there still so many poor people in Asia after decades of work by such organizations as the ADB?

Answer: Between 1990 and 2002, the number of Asian people living in abject poverty — on under $1 a day — decreased by 233 million. That is admirable progress in the struggle to lift people out of poverty in Asia, and it is mainly the result of rapid economic development in the region.

But there are still about 690 million people suffering in extreme poverty in Asia today. In South Asia, where many of the region’s poor live, some countries have only recently experienced the relatively high rates of economic growth needed to lift their populations out of poverty.

Q: The countries that support multilateral development banks have called on them to be more responsive and effective. How has ADB responded?

A: The international community is looking to ADB with higher expectations than ever before. Donor countries believe that we must re-energize ourselves and improve the effectiveness of our development work. I strongly share this view. Accordingly, I have set out an ambitious reform agenda for ADB.

This agenda focuses on improving the way we manage our institution, showing direct results on the ground for our work, and improving openness, accountability and responsiveness. These initiatives have received strong support from all our member countries.

Q: Recently, the World Bank and ADB have been accused of allowing billions of dollars to be lost to corruption. What is your response?

A: ADB will not tolerate corruption either among ADB-financed projects or its staff. ADB’s Anticorruption Policy covers all firms and individuals associated with ADB-financed projects. It also covers proposed, ongoing and completed projects in all its public- and private-sector operations.

To date, the bank has sanctioned or banned about 220 companies or individuals from being involved in bank-financed activities for having violated ADB’s Anticorruption Policy. In addition, ADB has partnered with the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development to help 23 governments in the region tackle corruption through more effective prosecutions of violators and support for reforms of government procurement.

Q: Asia seems to have rebounded from the financial crisis of the mid-1990s. What are the prospects for the years to come?

A: Developing Asia continues to be the fastest-growing region in the world. The region’s GDP is expected to grow by 7 percent this year and 6.2 percent next year.

Despite our optimism, there are factors that could slow growth, such as high oil prices and worrisome levels of public debt among countries in the region. There are also a few downside risks on the part of major industrial countries.

Q: The ADB has always had a Japanese as president. Is it possible that could change in the future?

A: The charter of the bank provides that the president “shall be a national of a regional member country.” The charter also provides that the Board of Governors shall elect a president of the bank. Therefore, it is up to the Board of Governors to decide.

Q: Do you have a message for your successor?

A: When ADB was formed in 1966, Asia was divided, stricken by conflict and the poorest region in the world. Today, the vision of an integrated, prosperous, poverty-free and peaceful Asia is no longer a dream.

My message is that with the strong support of all shareholders and by working together with all development partners, we can make the dream come true. I sincerely hope ADB will do its utmost to help realize this vision, not only for the good of Asia and the Pacific, but for the peace and prosperity of the whole world.

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