Editor’s Scratchpad

Friday, May 11, 2001

Was this curtain

Away from the turmoil and protests, the Asian Development Bank scheduled a panel discussion on Thursday afternoon that it billed in a press release as "a private, off-the-record opportunity for candid discussion of the practical issues" that foreign investors have faced in trying to invest in electric power plants in China.

Even though reporters were not permitted to quote the panelists, the press release gave away the substance of the issue, saying: "The first generation of independent power in China has not lived up to its promise." Part of the blame was ascribed to a "severe contraction in industrial demand after the Asian financial crisis" that began in 1997.

Second was a delay in separating investments generating plants from those in transmission and distribution of electricity "partly due to high-level politics and scandals."

Lastly, the ADB said, "the power sector suffers from coordination and legal failures" in Chinese institutions of governance, which was a polite way of saying that Chinese bureaucratic infighting was gumming things up.

That seemed to sum up the situation in China rather well.

--Richard Halloran

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