Published on Tuedasy, May 9, 2000 by the Associated Press
Asian Development Bank Meeting Gets
WTO-Like Reception
by Patrick McDowell
CHIANG MAI, Thailand - The Asian Development Bank has become the latest victim of protests and new scrutiny that have dogged big multilateral economic institutions since the World Trade Organization's debacle in Seattle last year.

Yesterday, the bank concluded a three-day annual meeting in a luxury hotel that resembled an armed camp, ringed by an estimated 2,000 riot police to keep out about 1,200 mostly poor Thais protesting that bank-funded projects such as dams have ruined their lives.

The United States, which has a 13 percent stake in the bank, signaled during the meeting that it is not prepared to put up more money, saying the bank should make better use of the funds it has.

The refusal put Washington and similarly minded European members of the board of governors on a collision course with Japan, which also has a 13 percent stake and dominates the bank's management.

The bank's mission is to reduce poverty in Asia, where it says some 900 million people live on less than one dollar a day. Critics charge it with being more comfortable with doing deals with governments and big business than consulting with the people it intends to help.

Many demonstrators came from a coastal area south of the capital, Bangkok, where the bank is helping fund a mammoth wastewater treatment plant to clean up pollution from barely regulated industries that have sprouted over the years. The villagers, who make their living mostly from fishing and farming, see the location of the facility as punishment for a mess they didn't make.

The protesters demanded that the bank stop funding the project and, echoing antiglobalization demonstrations, cease making loans that increase the indebtedness of poor countries or harm farmers and the poor in the name of financial restructuring and reform.

Copyright 2000 Associated Press