ADB looks for new role after success in growing Asian prosperity

KYOTO, Japan, May 5, 2007 (AFP) – The Asian Development Bank came under pressure Saturday not to abandon the region’s poorest as it considers a major overhaul in response to warnings that it risks becoming irrelevant.

With Asia’s rapid economic growth expected to wipe out widespread absolute poverty in much of the region by 2020, the ADB wants to carve out a new role to ensure it does not fall into obscurity.

ADB governors gathering for the public lender’s annual meeting in Kyoto, Japan agreed that an overhaul was needed, but there were divisions on how to reform.

“The ADB must adjust the current model or else at the extreme it will become obsolete in the new Asia,” said Indonesia’s ADB governor, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

“It is necessary for the ADB to be reborn as a new ADB,” added Japanese Finance Minister Koji Omi.

But some member nations fear the region’s poorest could be overlooked if the ADB shifts too far towards other areas such as road development and telecommunications.

Afghanistan and India led calls for the Asian Development Bank not to forget its original objective.

“The ADB needs to continues, or enhance, its engagement with its poorest members, the so-c