Sinha for change in 'mindset'

CHAING MAI (Thailand), MAY 7. The Finance Minister, Mr. Yashwant Sinha, today called for a ``change'' in the ``mindset'' of the developed bloc whose ``sermons'' to the developing countries on their economic affairs were becoming ``shriller''.

Addressing the ongoing 33rd annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank's Board of Governors, Mr. Sinha said it was ``unacceptable'' that these ``sermons'' were also punctuated by a parallel reduction in the resources being made available by the developed bloc to the have-nots through multilateral financial institutions and on a bilateral basis. He called for ``some balance'' in this sphere where ``we are being told what is wrong with us.''

Regretting the attitude of the ``powerful trading bloc,'' the Minister, who is also India's Governor on the ADB Board, said 13 per cent of the total anti-dumping action had been slapped on New Delhi whose share of global trade was about one per cent. ``Who are we threatening?'' he wanted to know.

Mr. Sinha's tough talk was noticed by diplomatic observers as an aspect of India's overall equation with multilateral institutions in general and the ADB, in particular, in the context of the latter's options for easing some loan restrictions it had imposed on New Delhi following the Pokhran nuclear tests of 1998.

Mr. Sinha made a specific reference to ``the turmoil going on outside'' of multilateral conferences. This, he said, needed to be taken note of.

For the second successive day, several thousand protesters demonstrated outside the meeting venue.

In line with the recent trend of non-governmental agencies and ordinary citizens resorting to street protests over the perceived injustices of the present international economic order, the demonstrators, who laid ``siege'' to a part of the meeting venue without actually disturbing the proceedings, wanted a fair deal for the poor and the underprivileged. Security remained tight.

On the positive side, Mr. Sinha commended the ADB for its focus on poverty reduction as the overarching goal, but drew a distinction between ``cyclical form of poverty'' and ``overhang poverty.'' The ADB's role was important to India as it sought to tackle the overhang aspect of poverty traceable from the past, he noted.