People’s Movements’ Manifesto on the Recently Concluded 42nd Annual Governors’ Meeting of the Asian Development Bank

May 7, 2009 Bali, Indonesia

Debt cancellation in developing countries is a major part of the solution to the economic crisis. Yet, the ADB, as it closed its Bali meetings, declared plans that will only lead to the intensification of the debt problem for Asian economies.

ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda pronounced this clearly when it made “commitments” to help the region’s developing economies affected by the crisis supposedly through easier access to more loans to “stimulate growth, trade, capital inflows, and private demand.” 

However, what the region needs are not additional loans and support facility funds, many of which could only become additional illegitimate debts. What the people of Asia and the Pacific demand and need is unconditional debt cancellation of all ADB debts as part of the solution to the crisis and in the immediate, as a more efficient economic stimulus package to help developing nations weather the direct effects of the economic conundrum.

The cancellation of illegitimate debts must be seen as a strategy for economic recovery and should constitute the cornerstone of the process in the reversal of neoliberal policies that have serious consequences to the Asian people. Moreover, as a result of debt cancellation, there will be more funds for social safety nets and retrenchment funds as well as support funds for small and medium industries. 

Subsequently, we also assert that reparation must be made by the ADB for promoting and financing climate crisis, flawed development projects that displaced communities and neoliberal policies such as privatization of public commons. Since its inception, ADB caused monumental damage and negative impacts on the people’s services, food production and environment.

On the other hand, we believe ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda’s call to shift to a “new development paradigm” is hypocritical and purely double talk. We remind Kuroda that for four decades, the ADB was the chief promoter of the now discredited neoliberal economic framework which largely contributed in the worsening of the current crisis.

Proof of this, amid strong calls for state re-regulation of the financial architecture and public services, Kuroda warned developing nations of veering towards “protectionism.” It is also manifested in ADB’s push for Private Equity Funds (PEF) or deregulated risky investments as a cornerstone of its private sector development strategy for Asia. 

As such, ADB not only declared its unwavering loyalty to the now despised and crisis-endemic free market development framework but also virtually advanced the absurd proposition that the solution to the crisis of neoliberalism is more neoliberalism.

Lastly, the “policy recommendations” that were crafted in the ADB meetings do not necessarily reflect the interest of the majority’s region. For an institution that wants to play a lead role in protecting Asia from the crisis, it is so undemocratic and discriminatory. 

Even now, many of the region’s developing countries are still widely underrepresented with nominal voting rights while developed countries like Japan are extremely overrepresented in its governing body.

Without doubt, nothing significant has come out of ADB’s Bali meetings. Like its previous meetings, it just reiterated its same old economic and development prescriptions—dangerous “remedies” that have only aggravated strong private sector involvement and ownership of public services, acquisition of illegitimate debts and promotion of destructive neoliberal policies. 

The ADB can and will never be a “beacon of hope”, a “shining white knight in armor” or a “reformed” regional financial institution that will save the region’s developing nations from the global economic crisis. The surest path towards the resolution of the economic crisis lies in the process of abandoning the destructive and fully discredited neoliberal economic paradigm and the introduction of a new post-capitalist economic model. 

Thus, we enjoin the people of the Asia Pacific Region to begin this meaningful process by implementing the comprehensive audit of all public debts and by establishing autonomous and democratic Asia-based financing mechanisms for sustainable and equitable development institutions and mechanisms as an alternative to ADB, its policies and illegitimate debts.

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