On the ADB presidency: Stop using nationality as a factor

Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda. The ADB should rethink how it chooses its president and senior staff, says Curtis Chin of The Wall Street Journal. Photo by: ADB / CC BY-NC

Calls for an open, merit-based system in choosing the next head of a multilateral development institution are extending to Asia.

In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, Curtis Chin, former U.S. ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, said it is time for ADB to rethink how it chooses its president and senior staff. The top post at the bank since its establishment has always been held by a Japanese.

Chin says this tradition, for which the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been criticized, is understandable given Japan’s contribution to ADB. Japan and the United States are the bank’s biggest shareholders: 15.65 percent each. But using nationality as a primary factor for choosing staff may “damage” employee morale. And the skills of candidates best qualified for the job might also be tainted just because they are Japanese.

Asian institutions, not just ADB, need to apply a transparent, merit-based approach in recruiting professional staff. Chin says this is important for institutions not to lose relevance in a fast-changing region. The ADB annual meeting May 2-5 would be a good opportunity for governors to start discussion on the matter, Chin notes.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.