Protestors gather ahead of ADB meet in India

Hyderabad, May 1:

Protesters gathered here today ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which they accuse of wielding too much power without accountability. Organisers said up to 7,000 people would take part in rallies and demonstrations against the Manila-based lender in this southern Indian city.

“This is an organisation which is not transparent, accountable and believes that the market is the answer to everything,” said Benny Kuruvilla, spokesman for the People’s Forum Against ADB, an umbrella group of more than 70 non-governmental organisations, “We believe the state has a crucial role to play. They give very little funds but have a large say in influencing government policy decisions.”

The ADB has said the four-day long annual general meeting from Wednesday will focus on development challenges facing Asia-Pacific nations, home to two-thirds of the world’s poor. More than 2,500 global delegates including finance ministers, business leaders and representatives from international organisations will discuss how to alleviate poverty in the region.

Protestors will call on the ADB to cut poverty faster and spend more on defences against high oil prices and bird flu. “During the 2000 meeting of ADB in Thailand, about 5,000 protestors participated,” said Kuruvilla, “We will top it and at least 7,000 protestors will be there in Hyderabad.”

Souparna Lahiri, co-ordinator of the People’s Forum, said ‘street-corner’ meetings have started here ‘as a build-up to the big May 5 rally’ on Friday. The ADB has said the meeting was taking place when the Asia and Pacific region ‘is economically buoyant’, predicting overall economic expansion of 7.2 per cent in 2006 and seven per cent in 2007.

But it said a “disorderly unraveling of the global payment imbalances, the possibility of a pandemic from human-to-human contact of the avian flu virus, high oil prices, or a surge in trade protectionism would unsettle the outlook.”

In a report released this month, the ADB also said noted huge disparities between nations on the money they received from trade in goods and services and transfer payments from abroad.

It warned of the impact of high oil prices and a possible bird flu pandemic in the region which has seen the vast majority of human deaths from the disease.

ADB chief Ifzal Ali has also sounded the alarm over a looming ‘Asian unemployment crisis’ with at least half a billion of the region’s 1.7 billion workers unemployed or under-employed, with 245 million new workers expected in the next decade. India — a founding member of the ADB and its fourth-largest shareholder — is planning to showcase its economic strength during the meeting held in this hi-tech southern city.

“It presents an opportunity to focus the global spotlight on India’s emerging potential as an investment destination against the backdrop of its robust economic fundamentals of more than eight percent growth,” said finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.