Sustaining economic recovery with an assault on poverty in Asia and rebuilding war-ravaged Afghanistan will be the main issues at the upcoming Asian Development Bank's meeting, the bank's chief said.
Some 3,000 delegates will attend the 35th annual meeting of ADB's board of governors in Shanghai from May 10 to 12.
ADB President Tadao Chino said the meeting among 60 members would help track the region's economic outlook which could be clouded by oil price increases following the Middle East conflict.
"A major challenge now is to bring Asian economies back on a steady and sustainable growth path" after the four-year turmoil that followed the Asian financial crisis in 1997, Chino said in an interview ahead of the meeting.
The Manila-based ADB is forecasting that developing Asia will achieve an average growth of 4.8 per cent in 2002 and 5.8 per cent in 2003, after posting 3.7 per cent growth in 2001, he said.
Chino said gradual recovery in global trade and moderate improvement in capital flows to Asia and strong domestic demand in many developing nations would support the region's economies.
He said the strengthening of the US economy should brighten the outlook for other economies worldwide, including the Euro area and Japan, he said.
"However there are concerns," he warned. "One concern for developing Asia is the oil price (and its associated effects). The destructive events in the Middle East could cause oil prices to rise."
ADB is also concerned about the pace of structural reforms in Asia, given the increased global competition in traditional export markets.
Asked whether Japan would drag down Asian growth, Chino said he expected the world's second largest economy to improve in 2002 and show positive growth in 2003.
The ADB annual talks will also seek feedback on the bank's poverty-busting strategy, in line with the United Nations' goal of cutting poverty in half by 2015 as part of its so-called millennium development goals.
"We recognize the MDG of cutting poverty in half by 2015 is ambitious, but we are confident it can be achieved in many Asian countries," Chino said.
Some 900 million people in Asia are living in poverty and they make up 70 per cent of the world's poor.
Another key topic in Shanghai is ADB's participation in Afghanistan's reconstruction and recovery following the US-led war against terror there.
The ADB is leading work in four areas - agriculture, education, transportation and the environment in Afghanistan.
"For our part, ADB is preparing an initial country strategy and programme for the next three years and we tentatively have identified a programme of about US$200 million in assistance for 2002 with similar levels of assistance for 2003 and 2004," Chino said.
(China Daily April 25, 2002)