The De­vel­op­ment Chal­lenge

ADB could play a more mean­ing­ful role by in­volv­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and other rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers in de­vel­op­ment and anti-poverty ini­tia­tives rather than cater­ing to in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing con­cerns.

Southasia - - Cover story - By Ta­hera Sa­jid

Many South Asian coun­tries con­tinue to re­ceive fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal sup­port from the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank. How­ever, de­vel­op­ment plan­ners and prac­ti­tion­ers urge ADB for re­form in its poli­cies and pro­ce­dural ap­proach in or­der to be truly re­flec­tive of its com­mit­ment.

The Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADB) was es­tab­lished in 1966 with a com­mit­ment “to help its de­vel­op­ing mem­ber coun­tries re­duce poverty and im­prove the qual­ity of life of their peo­ple.” It is fi­nanced by 67 mem­ber coun­tries, and works closely with de­vel­op­ment agen­cies, gov­ern­ments and in the pri­vate sec­tor, pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance. A brief de­scrip­tion of some as­sis­tance projects pro­vided by the ADB to some South Asian coun­tries from the ADB web­site is as fol­lows:

In­dia is a found­ing mem­ber of the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADB) and its fifth largest share­holder. Loans amount­ing to $22,228.15 mil­lion have been ap­proved for var­i­ous projects in In­dia since 1986, which in­clude among oth­ers, the clean en­ergy ini­tia­tives and re­build­ing and re­con­struc­tion projects. In sup­port of Tata Power pro­ject, ADB pro­vided a loan cov­er­ing about 70% of the pro­ject cost. To as­sist the ef­fected peo­ple of 2001 Gu­jrat earth­quake, in which nearly 2 mil­lion peo­ple lost their homes and thou­sands lost their lives, ADB ap­proved a $350 mil­lion pro­ject in fi­nanc­ing hous­ing, re­build­ing in­fra­struc­ture, and restor­ing power sup­ply and liveli­hoods.

Pak­istan, the 13th largest share­holder, has re­ceived about $20 bil­lion in loans so far, uti­lized in sup­port­ing de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives in in­fra­struc­ture, en­ergy, so­cial sec­tors and gov­er­nance. In 2005, as Pak­istan strug­gled to han­dle the worst earth­quake of its his­tory that af­fected 3.5 mil­lion, the ADB pro­vided valu­able as­sis­tance in var­i­ous forms, in­clud­ing loans for ma­te­ri­als used in re­build­ing and re­con­struc­tion. Sim­i­larly, when the 2010 floods im­pacted 20 mil­lion peo­ple, sweep­ing away 2.2m hectares of farm­land, the ADB not only sought to es­tab­lish a trust fund for other part­ners to chan­nel their con­tri­bu­tion, but ap­proved a $3 mil­lion grant with 200 mil­lion pledged over the next two years for ur­gent re­lief and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion needs.

Sri Lanka has re­ceived $4.69 bil­lion in loans and $104.8 mil­lion for 238 tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance projects since join­ing the ADB in 1966. ADB’s sup­port pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for Sri Lanka’s dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties to tackle the ef­fects of years of con­flict, and nat­u­ral calami­ties like the 2004 tsunami. Im­por­tant mi­cro­fi­nance and skills train­ing is also pro­vided by the ADB-sup­ported projects to em­power women, giv­ing them a choice to stay near their fam­i­lies rather than mi­grate to the Mid­dle East as do­mes­tic work­ers, where they are em­ployed in me­nial jobs and suf­fer wide­spread abuse. ADB has also been ac­tively in­volved in help­ing Sri Lanka’s un­der funded ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem get back on track, pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity to schools, schol­ar­ships for stu­dents and teach­ers, and ca­pac­ity build­ing.

Bangladesh joined the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADB) in 1973, and is one of the largest bor­row­ers of con­ces­sion­ary Asian De­vel­op­ment Fund re­sources. The cu­mu­la­tive lend­ing in 2009 amounted to about $10.89 bil­lion for loans, with $195.15 mil­lion for tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance grants for 348 projects.

De­spite in­ject­ing mil­lions of dol­lars into de­vel­op­ment spend­ing in Asia, the ADB has re­ceived strong crit­i­cism from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for be­ing a highly cen­tral­ized and un­ac­count­able in­sti­tu­tion, cater­ing more to the de­mands of its ma­jor donors, Ja­pan and the U.S., thereby con­tribut­ing to se­ri­ous set­backs for the very peo­ple it aims to help. There are strong ob­jec­tions to pol­icy re­forms and pri­va­ti­za­tion of state in­sti­tu­tions ad­vo­cated by the ADB in bor­row­ing

coun­tries, which re­sult in down­siz­ing and, hence, in­creased job­less­ness. The mem­ber gov­ern­ments, when pres­sur­ized to keep up with debt as well as main­tain­ing growth, of­ten are forced to take the route of in­creased taxes and re­sult in less long term ben­e­fits for their pop­u­la­tions.

Ox­fam Aus­tralia has crit­i­cized the ADB of in­sen­si­tiv­ity to con­cerns of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties by un­der­min­ing “peo­ple’s hu­man rights through projects that have detri­men­tal out­comes for poor and marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties.” The bank has been charged by NGOs with caus­ing dis­place­ment of 100,000 to 150,000 peo­ple in Asia each year due to in­ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of its well-mean­ing but lop-sided ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion

Ac­tionAid, an in­ter­na­tional an­tipoverty agency formed in 1972, has called for wide rang­ing re­forms of the ADB, and as­serted, “Be­cause of their failed in­stru­ments, poverty is higher, you see ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment, you see mal­nu­tri­tion, all over Asia.” More than 10% of the to­tal ex­ter­nal debt of the Asia Pa­cific is also owed to the ADB. Al­though some of these poor­est coun­tries per­pet­u­ally struck in the cy­cle of debt could ben­e­fit from wri­te­offs, there was strong op­po­si­tion ex­pressed by Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of ADB, Mr. Nag, against the idea of debt can­cel­la­tion when it came up as part of the UN MDGs and in­sisted, “We as an in­sti­tu­tion do not do that. We be­lieve that we are a de­vel­op­men­tal in­sti­tu­tion, but are also a bank.”

The bank has also re­ceived crit­i­cism for its lack of in­sight, or will to im­ple­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal safe­guards in pur­suit of its goals, of­ten re­sult­ing in short term de­vel­op­ment value but long term en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age, like the coal-pow­ered fire sta­tion in Thai­land. A U.S.-based NGO, En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense, has charged that, “The ADB’s en­vi­ron­men­tal cat­e­go­riza­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly weaker than that of the World Bank, which re­quires all projects clas­si­fied as sen­si­tive to un­dergo an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment. But such an as­sess­ment is not al­ways re­quired for ADB projects clas­si­fied as sen­si­tive.”

Other is­sues where ADB has come un­der fire is its dis­re­gard for is­sues of larger po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions, like the ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute be­tween In­dia and China where the ADB en­dorsed a $2.9 bil­lion fund­ing strat­egy for pro­posed projects for In­dia Coun­try Part­ner­ship strat­egy, di­rectly im­pact­ing In­dia’s re­la­tions with China. China ex­pressed strong con­dem­na­tion of the bank’s move which “not only se­ri­ously tar­nishes its own name, but also un­der­mines the in­ter­ests of its mem­bers.”

In con­clu­sion, ADB’s strate­gies might be more ef­fec­tive if they pro­moted a bal­ance be­tween eco­nomic growth and en­sur­ing liveli­hood sus­te­nance for the dis­ad­van­taged pop­u­la­tions of South Asia. More­over, plan­ning de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives with full par­tic­i­pa­tion of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and other rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers, rather than cater­ing to in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing con­cerns would bring bet­ter re­sults and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the wellmean­ing but con­stantly chal­lenged role that the ADB strug­gles to play in its anti-poverty ini­tia­tives. The writer is a free­lance jour­nal­ist and lives in Mas­sachusetts, USA. She is a com­mu­nity builder and a vol­un­teer for U.S.-Mus­lim re­la­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.