Kuroda assumes ADB top post with host of challenges ahead
MANILA, Jan. 31 Kyodo
A senior adviser of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will assume the helm of the Asian Development Bank on Tuesday with the urgent task of licking poverty in the region and spurring regional economic growth.
Haruhiko Kuroda, 60, takes over the reins of the Manila-based financial institution from Tadao Chino, who ends his six-year term Monday.
Kuroda was Koizumi''s adviser on international monetary issues and a professor at the graduate school of economics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo before he was picked to be the ADB''s eighth president.
Kuroda has his hands full of challenges -- from alleviating poverty in the region to reforming the international financial institution criticized for excessive bureaucracy and secrecy.
The Asia-Pacific region now faces a number of new challenges that could blur the bank''s vision of a poverty-free region. These challenges involve global economic and political uncertainties, including global security concerns, conflicts, natural calamities and epidemic diseases like SARS, bird flu and AIDS.
Kuroda faces the task of helping to reduce the region''s vulnerabilities to these external shocks.
''''ADB faces increasing pressures to respond to some of the most critical challenges of our time, including poverty, global security, environmental sustainability and economic uncertainty,'''' says a recent ADB policy paper.
In early 1999, the bank adopted poverty reduction as its ''''overarching goal.'''' But despite its poverty-reduction efforts, the Asia-Pacific region still accounts for nearly two-thirds of the world''s poor, or some 720 million people living on less than a dollar a day.
According to the bank, the Dec. 26 earthquake-triggered tsunamis that ripped across southern Asia, leaving nearly 300,000 people dead or missing around the Indian Ocean rim, could throw another 2 million people into poverty.
Recognizing that the urgent task at hand is to speed up reconstruction efforts in tsunami-ravaged countries, Chino announced Friday that the ADB is hatching a plan to establish a $600 million Asian Tsunami Trust Fund.
Kuroda is expected to oversee the implementation of this plan to provide grants and highly concessional loans to countries devastated by the tsunami.
The task is not new to Kuroda. As former Japanese vice finance minister for international affairs, Kuroda helped design and implement the $30 billion Miyazawa Initiative -- Japan''s response to crisis-hit Asian economies in 1997.
Under his leadership, Japan helped Asian nations establish a network of currency swap agreements, the so-called Chiang Mai Initiative, to avert a repeat of the 1997-1978 Asian financial crisis.
''''Poverty in the region has always remained the paramount challenge of the bank,'''' Cielito Habito, former head of the Philippines'' National Economic and Development Authority, said in an interview.
In 2003, the ADB lent $6.1 billion and provided $50.3 million worth of grants to ease poverty in Asia.
The ADB claims to have helped reduce poverty incidence in Asia and the Pacific region from 32 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2000, or from 900 million poor in 1990 to 720 million at the end of the last decade.
But Philippine Economic Development Secretary Romulo Neri has his doubts about the ADB''s role, saying, ''''Their interventions may not be that helpful as they should be.''''
''''The organization needs revitalization,'''' he told Kyodo News. ''''It needs improvement in the quality of their analyses. (Compared with the World Bank and other institutions), ADB''s (analyses) need a little more refinement, a little more sharpness.''''
Indeed, Kuroda will also face the tough tasks of reforming the bank to make it more responsive to the needs of its members and the need to have greater transparency so that it will be able to provide the public with ''''a clear, balanced picture of its work and results,'''' according to the policy paper.
The paper stresses the need for the bank to ''''disseminate its knowledge and expertise on regional issues more effectively,'''' citing increasing demands from governments, business, and civil society for the ADB to provide expert knowledge and insights into the region.
''''There is a growing demand for information about development in Asia and the Pacific and the lessons learned from experience. This poses a challenge to ADB to enhance its intellectual leadership and better articulate and communicate its substantial knowledge of the region,'''' says the paper.
The ADB has been headed by Japanese since its establishment in 1966. Japan is one of the two largest shareholders in the ADB, along with the United States.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Kyodo News International, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group