Saturday, May 12, 2001

ADB Conference Logo

ADB leader
gives Hawaii
high marks

He says Hawaii's peaceful
environment makes it a good
place for such meetings

Isle church leaders urge ADB
to give poor a break

By Lyn Danninger

ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK President Tadao Chino told state leaders yesterday what they had been waiting to hear.

"Hawaii has demonstrated it's a good venue for serious business talks," he said.

Chino used his closing remarks at the ADB's 34th annual meeting to give both his own organization and the state of Hawaii high marks for a successful board of governors meeting.

"It was a productive meeting in peaceful circumstances," he said.

The state invested millions of dollars in the hopes of holding a successful international convention that would enhance Hawaii's reputation as a place to do business.

Ministers from the bank's 59 nations were relieved that they had escaped the kind of violent protests that disrupted other international economic forums.

On Wednesday roughly 500 protesters gathered outside the Hawai'i Convention Center to criticize what they regard as the ADB's failure to achieve its primary goal: reduce widespread poverty across the Asia-Pacific region. Organizers had predicted thousands of demonstrators.

The demonstration included a visit from Chino, who went out on the streets to accept the group's list of demands.

The peaceful protest allowed ADB members to concentrate on the business of their annual meeting, which included much discussion of the economic state of the Asia-Pacific region.

Although the global economic outlook is cloudy, many ADB ministers said they do not expect to see much of Asia collapse the way it did four years ago during a crisis that rattled financial markets and economies around the world.

"Asia is coming under renewed stress," said Singapore's minister, Lim Hng Kiang. "But Asia is better positioned than in the past to absorb and ride out the shocks."

In its latest outlook, the ADB said the Asian region -- excluding Japan, Australia and New Zealand -- would see a slowdown in growth to 5.3 percent from 7.1 percent in 2000. But, it said, that would be followed by a rebound to 6.1 percent in 2002. In his closing remarks, Chino addressed a main criticism of the bank: its role in expanding globalization.

"The real challenge is to maximize its benefits while minimizing risks," Chino said.

Critics say the ADB's pro-development polices have increased the divide between rich and poor in today's competitive global market, and the growing dominance of Western multinational corporations and chain stores such as the GAP, Starbucks and McDonald's.

In a nod to those who expressed concerns about the region's environment, Chino said environmental considerations must become an integral part of the bank's policies. He also said the ADB would become more accountable by evaluating the impact of its policies.

After the speech Chino was asked whether attendance at this year's meeting was down from last year.

"At Chiang Mai (Thailand) last year, we had about 2,500 participants," Chino said. "We haven't counted yet, but it looks about the same for Honolulu."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Asian Development Bank

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