Protests accompany ADB meet

Hyderabad, May 3 :

Protestors took to the streets here on Wednesday as the Asian Development Bank held its annual meeting on expanding free trade in a region which is home to two-thirds of the world’s poor.

More than 1,000 people beating drums and carrying banners rallied against the lending policies of the ADB and the World Bank which they branded as anti-poor, witnesses said. Several hundred protestors had already demonstrated during the early morning in this southern Indian city to protest the “anti-people policies” of the multilateral agency. Wearing black headbands, brown and green jackets proclaiming “Destroy ADB” and “Go back ADB”, the demonstrators, including women and children, shouted slogans against the Manila-based lender. “ADB hands off our water, our health, our forests, our livelihood and our environment,” a huge banner read.

“These agencies are undemocratic and push their own agenda without listening to our voices,” said Murad Hussian, head of a 70-member group from India’s eastern state of West Bengal.

The People’s Forum Against ADB, an umbrella group of more than 70 non-governmental organisations, also kicked off a “parallel session” in Hyderabad to highlight the plight of people displaced by ADB projects, what it claims to be the lack of accountability of the ADB and other social issues.

“The ADB, like the World Bank, has become the custodian of private investment and the promoter and protector of corporate interests and profits,” said Gururaja Budhya, a People’s Forum spokesperson. “The projects of the ADB continue to displace hundreds of thousands of people across the region with little or no compensation,” he said. “The ADB creates development refugees and manufactures poverty.” On Friday, the People’s Forum is planning a rally in Hyderabad and more than 7,000 people are expected to attend, Budhya said.

More than 3,000 delegates including finance ministers, business leaders and representatives from global organisations are attending the ADB’s 39th annual meeting to focus on Asian development challenges.

ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said the major challenge was to bridge the widening gap between rich and poor and to ensure that the poor benefit from economic growth. “This will not be easy to achieve. There are a number of challenges,” Kuroda told a press conference. “Broad-based growth can only be achieved if people have basic access to clean water and sanitation, and if the poor are provided with education and training to get jobs.”

‘Oil prices not sustainable’

Hyderabad: Record-high oil prices will soften as they are unsustainable, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) chief forecast on Wednesday. The statements by ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda came as oil prices headed back toward an all-time high of $75.35 a barrel hit on April 21 amid ongoing concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“All of the developing nations are oil importers and high consumers,” said ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda. “I think oil producers must make their best efforts to stabilise prices to sustainable levels.”

“At $75 per barrel, it’s unsustainable. Some geopolitical events may destabilise the market. But apart from that, the current level is very high,” he said. He did not say what he believed the price of oil should be.

In its 2006 growth forecast, the ADB cut its estimate to 7.2 per cent for Asia from 7.4 per cent last year “based on the assumption that oil prices will gradually soften,” he said.

The ADB chief called on Asian nations to improve energy efficiency and develop cleaner and sustainable energy and added that the bank would “provide one billion dollars in new loans for clean energy development.” Analysts say curbs on energy usage and fuel-efficient technology have helped minimise inflation in oil-dependent Asian economies, cushioning the impact of spiralling oil prices. — AFP