University teaching was Haruhiko Kuroda’s dream. He did fulfill this dream – he taught at the graduate school of economics in Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo but only for two years.
In January 2005, he left the university to become the eighth president of the premiere development institution in Asia and the Pacific, the Asian Development Bank.
“It is very challenging but it is (a) very exciting job –to be head of ADB– because ADB has contributed greatly to the development of Asian economies,” Kuroda recalls of his first 100 days in office during an interview with Lorraine Hahn for CNN’s TalkAsia program, which aired on June 18, 2005.
In his current post, Kuroda, who served the Japanese government for more than 30 years under the finance ministry and later as the special advisor to former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, is now tasked to work with the bank’s 63 shareholders, among them 45 regional countries and 18 non-regional countries.
“I have to serve 63 countries rather than one country; this is a big difference,” he said.
Regional economic integration through infrastructure, financial, and trade and investment cooperation has been the main mantra of his leadership.
“Through economic integration, countries can accelerate growth and reduce poverty,” Kuroda said. “That is (the) overarching objective of ADB, and that is good for those economies and people living in developing Asia.”
With the majority of the Asian population trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, Kuroda noted the importance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, regional economic cooperation and infrastructure investments as the most significant drivers of change in Asia that the bank may lend assistance to.
There is a “huge need of infrastructure investment in Asia - something like 250 billion dollars every year,” he said.
According to Kuroda, the diversity of nations in and the constant transformation of the Asian region post unique development challenges.
“ADB has its members from Afghanistan, through India, Pakistan, China and even some Pacific countries like Papua New Guinea and so on … they are so different so ADB must provide assistance tailor made to each developing country,” Kuroda explained, adding that, “Asia is the most dynamic region in the world … (which) means that the needs are changing, even India, PRC, their needs are changing because their economies are growing so fast. So we have to adapt our operations, our dialogue with these countries fast enough. Otherwise we will be lagged behind.”
Born in Japan’s southern province of Kyushu, Kuroda enjoys swimming, traveling and reading books on mathematics and physics during his free time. He holds a master of philosophy in economics from the University of Oxford and a law degree from the University of Tokyo.
In his tenure as ADB president, Kuroda hopes to make the regional lender “more responsive, more relevant, and more result oriented”.
“By so doing I hope really in the next five years or so Asia will further integrate, further grow and further reduce poverty among people,” Kuroda stressed. “That is (the) most important point.”