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China calls for high priority to developing countries in ADB
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A senior Chinese official on Sunday called on the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to give high priority to its developing members and let their voice be better heard.

"The ADB should actively consider reforming its internal governance structure, so that developing members can play a more important role in the decision making," Li Yong, vice finance minister of China, told a seminar on the sidelines of an annual meeting of the ADB, which began on Saturday.

Li Yong said developing members should be heard more in designing strategy and policy of the ADB since they are the targets the bank serves.

Established in 1966, the ADB is an international development finance institution in the Asia-Pacific region whose mission is to help its developing members to reduce poverty and improve life quality of their people, mainly through grants or low-interest lending to support development projects.

It now has 67 members, including some developed countries like the United States, Japan and the host Spain.

After over 40 years in action, the bank is currently formulating a new long-term strategic framework to guide itself during the period till 2020.

Li said the new strategy of the ADB should conform with development trends in the Asia-Pacific region and meet diversified needs of its developing members.

"The ADB needs to create new comparative advantage to the changing requirements of developing members while building stronger operations of traditional advantages, such as infrastructure, agriculture and also regional cooperation," he said.

Li's remarks were made one day before the ADB's highest policy-making body, the Board of Governors, which comprises one representative from each of its 67 members, meets on the future of the institution, providing guidance on the ADB administrative, financial and operational directions.

In addition to internal reforms, Li said the ADB should externally strengthen strategic cooperation with other development institutions and mobilize more private capital for investment through public and private partnership.

Addressing the same seminar, ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said the ADB would continue its fight against poverty in the following years through three critical strategic agendas, namely inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration.

"The ADB will be an engine and partner for change by emphasizing private sector development, good governance, gender equity, knowledge solutions and partnerships," he said.

Kuroda said the ADB would focus on five areas, including infrastructure, environment, regional cooperation and integration, financial sector development and education.

This year's ADB annual meeting was opened amid rising food prices, which the bank had warned could undermine its efforts to fight against poverty.

Japanese Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga said poverty reduction remains the biggest challenge to the ADB and the bank should play a central role in this.

"Those hardest hit are the poorest segments of the population, especially the urban poor," Nukaga said, "It will have a negative impact on their living standards and their nutrition, a situation that may lead to social unrest and distrust."

Over a billion people in the Asia-Pacific region are seriously impacted by the food price surge as food expenditure accounts for 60 percent of total expenditure basket. Food and energy together account for more than 75 percent of total spending of the poor in the region.

Surging food prices topped the agenda of the ADB annual meeting this year. The bank announced on Saturday it would provide immediate budgetary support to some Asia-Pacific countries hit hardest by rising food prices.

(Xinhua News Agency May 5, 2008)

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