Adb Meeting Ends, Marked by Criticism

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today wound up a three-day meeting which was marked by criticism of the ADB from both rich and poor member nations.

In speech after speech, the 20-year-old ADB was charged either with not doing enough to help countries in the region, or with funding projects which were not worthwhile.

The attacks often, but not always, broke down along developed and developing country lines.

The former, which provide the ADB with money, generally emphasized the need for quality projects.

The ADB was not even spared criticism from its host country and largest shareholder, Japan.

“I am not 100 pct satisfied with the performance of the ADB,” Japanese finance ministry deputy director-general Fumiya Iwasaki told Reuters.

He said the Bank had only approved five pct more new loans in 1986 than in 1985. He hoped for a return to the more rapid growth rates of earlier years.

“The Asian economy is now changing. The ADB should adapt itself to those changes,” he said.

But supporters of the ADB said it already was changing, and Iwasaki made it clear Japan welcomed the steps being taken by the ADB’s president Masao Fujioka.

“So far, we have confidence in Mr Fujioka’s leadership,” Iwasaki said.

To spur demand for loans, the ADB has restructured its country and agricultural departments to enable it to identify the needs of developing member countries more quickly.

But some delegates said the ADB was putting too much emphasis on the need to give out more money, and not enough on checking the quality of the projects involved.

“The success of the Bank should not be measured by the volume of its lending but by its contribution to the development process,” chief U.S. Delegate Charles H. Dallara told the meeting.

He said: “Project quality is an area which has attracted attention recently and on which the United States has expressed strong views. Although over the years the majority of ADB loans have been sound, we have had problems with some of the projects brought before the board of directors lately.”

Australia voiced similar concerns.

Australian delegate C. J. Hurford said: “Bad projects benefit neither the Bank nor its borrowers. They damage the Bank’s reputation and ultimately lessen support from donor countries and capital markets.”

There were also criticisms of proposals from developing countries that the ADB make more of its loans dependent on economic reforms in Third World nations.

“We are concerned with the Bank’s increasing preoccupation with dialogue,” said India’s delegate, S. Venkitaramanan.

“We have expressed our unhappiness with the insistence of multi-lateral agencies on global prescriptions,” he said.