More ADB steps sought to fight poverty

CHIANG MAI (Thailand), MAY 7. India's key neighbours - China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - today joined New Delhi in calling for sustained action by the Asian Development Bank for poverty reduction that had been adopted by the regional institution as its ``overarching'' objective.

Addressing the ADB's 33rd annual board meeting, China's Governor to the Bank, Mr. Xiang Huaicheng, said ``a just and reasonable international economic order'' was necessary, in addition to the efforts of Asian countries, for a ``sustainable growth''. The ADB should also take into account the ``country specifics'' of the borrowers in a context of ``vicissitudes in the international political and economic situation.''

Mr. Xiang, who had on Saturday joined Japan and South Korea as also South East Asian States in calling for the creation of a regional financing arrangement or a currency-swap, today zeroed in prime attention on poverty reduction, given especially the reality, as he cited, that 80 per cent of Asia's poor were concentrated in China and India.

Pakistan's Governor to the ADB, Mr. Shaukat Aziz, made no mention of his country's pet theme of the situation in Kashmir and focussed attention the prevention of ``a serious threat'' from poverty to ``the peace of civil society'' in South Asia, including his country, where nearly one-third of the population was now below the poverty line. Mr. Aziz spoke of a certain diversion of funds from the Defence sector to poverty alleviation programmes in Pakistan at this stage. He noted that the ``largest-ever allocation'' had been made for small public works plans to combat poverty.

It was commendable that Pakistan's armed forces had ``donated'' almost one-half of the said allocation of Pak. Rs. 15 billion ``by effecting savings in their Budget'' Mr. Aziz said.

Sri Lanka's Governor ad interim to the ADB, Prof. G. L. Peiris, who also focussed on poverty reduction, referred briefly to the country's prime concerns of the day. He said ``the Government aims to resolve the 17- year long ethnic conflict through adoption of a devolution package to transfer a wide range of legislative and fiscal powers from the Central to elected Provincial and Local authorities.

Prof. Peiris noted that Sri Lanka's economy had ``suffered setbacks on account of the ruthless destructive attempt by the LTTE to disrupt socioeconomic lives and destroy strategic economic locations.'' He made this observation in the overall context of the impact of ``difficult external economic conditions'' and other factors.

The ADB meeting and the associated social events brought India's Finance Minister, Mr. Yashwant Sinha, and the Ministers from its neighbours to the same stage but there was little conspicuous sign of any major diplomatic engagement among them here. One official joked that they might have rubbed shoulders.