Five points to keep ADB relevant

Standing as one of the largest multilateral development banks operating today, the Asian Development Bank has carved out a niche for itself in the arena of international development, serving the world’s poorest nations and helping them achieve sustainable economic progress and genuine growth. Or at least, that’s what the bank

be doing. Today, the ADB and other large financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are in danger of losing their relevance, especially as the international community goes through a whole string of inexorable changes. The old method of giving aid to developing countries is no longer as effective as it may have been a decade ago.

In an article they wrote for the Financial Times, U.S. Ambassadors Paul Speltz and Linda Tsao Yang pointed out that the ADB has been slow to address its most urgent problems, issues that ultimately wear away at the bank’s pertinence in the modern, developing world. “Priorities are not being honestly, transparently or courageously tackled, resulting in an ADB that is in danger of slipping into irrelevance,” said the authors, warning afterwards that “in time, this erosion of relevance could endanger the support for and existence of the institution.”

Speltz and Yang, however, insisted that the last thing the ADB needs is another pool of consultants to palm off advice to the bank’s board. Instead, the authors identified five salient points of attack that are key to re-affirming the relevance of the ADB. The five-point strategy involves the creation of two separate departments for human resources and budgeting, both of which are currently merged in only one unit. Under the current scheme, the department is found to lack “transparent accountability,” ultimately damaging the bank’s internal controls.

The list, of course, doesn’t end in that first point. Speltz and Yang believe that the ADB should make the employment process more open and bias-free, and that the bank’s anti-corruption effort requires more staff members and resources than the department actually has right now. Private sector dealings should be boosted as well, particularly since these have proven to be very fruitful in the past. Finally, the authors emphasized that “the veil of secrecy that enshrouds ADB’s decision-making” must be discarded, and that “annual meetings should be a forum for strategic discussions on the bank?s future” instead of venues for producing cookie-cutter solutions to larger and more intricate problems.

It seems that in various levels, the central problem that the authors have fished out from ADB’s existing methods is the issue of transparency, of providing frank assistance to the poorer countries without resorting to labyrinthine schemes. It is a challenge that the bank must contend with swiftly if it wants to retain its noble purpose – and even its existence – for the developing world’s ever-shifting needs.

Source: Five ways to reform Asia?s regional bank (Financial Times)

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