MANILA, PHILIPPINES (1 February 2005) - Haruhiko Kuroda took the reins of ADB today as its eighth President and immediately called on the institution to re-invigorate itself to meet the challenges of operating in the world's most dynamic region.
"The Asia and Pacific Region has tremendous potential to rapidly attain sustainable economic development and poverty reduction in the coming years," Kuroda told the bank's more than 2000 employees. "That is because the region's people have great potential."
In his first day in office, Mr. Kuroda outlined the vision of a bank that works in close consultation with the nations of Asia to provide effective development assistance.
"As the Asia and Pacific Region is experiencing dynamic and rapid change, ADB - as the "Family Doctor" - should respond to the region's needs in a flexible and timely manner," he said.
Mr. Kuroda, who was unanimously elected ADB President by its Board of Governors in November 2004, acknowledged that he was coming into office at a critical time when several countries in the region are struggling with the effects of the recent tsunami. "I can assure you that ADB will do everything it can for our affected developing member countries," he said.
For the region as a whole, the new President singled out poverty as the primary challenge. Though poverty in developing Asia has declined from 34% in 1990 to 22% in 2002, most of this reduction has been isolated to a few areas.
"The Asia and Pacific region is diverse," he said. "And so has progress been diverse."
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) continue to be the major guideposts of progress in poverty reduction, Mr. Kuroda said. But they should be fulfilled with sensitivity to local circumstances and priorities. He also noted that the most vulnerable people in society should never be forgotten in the race to greater economic growth.
"Sustainable poverty reduction requires that long-standing gender issues and the special needs of children receive the attention and support they deserve," he said. "Regardless of which approaches are pursued by individual countries, the Asia and Pacific Region should endeavor to fulfill all the MDGs as quickly as possible."
Mr. Kuroda noted that foreign direct investment (FDI) is vital to economic growth and poverty reduction, and said that ADB is committed to helping build healthy business environments in the region. "It is imperative to foster institutions and policies attractive to private funds and businesses," he said.
Building physical infrastructure is also critical for economic growth, and institutions such as ADB play a vital role in the process by ensuring that environmental and social safeguards are maintained. "Even if financing comes from the private sector, the role of the public sector is crucial," he said.
Another important aspect of economic growth in Asia will be the promotion of alliances among its countries. He called regional integration initiatives "a special and unique mission of a regional development bank."
As for the institution itself, Mr. Kuroda said ADB will continue to pursue the aggressive Reform Agenda that it has undertaken to make it a more effective development organization. He said the bank needs to be more client-oriented and that it should deal better with member governments and stream-line its procedures.
"I promise to dedicate all (of) my energy and efforts to ADB," he vowed to the bank's staff.