Despite Asia’s splendid economic success stories, daunting challenges continue, not the least of which is poverty, Rajat Nag, new managing director general of the Asian Development Bank, said Wednesday in an interview with The Japan Times in Tokyo.
“My personal goal is only the same as the institution’s goal, and the same as Asia’s goal; that is to fight poverty,” said Nag, who took over his post on Dec. 12.
According to Nag, Asia is home to two-thirds of the world’s poor; 42 percent of Chinese citizens live on $2 a day. In India, the figure is 78 percent.
“The benefits of growth have to be more fairly shared,” Nag said. “Increasingly, one sees two faces of Asia — the shining towers of prosperous Mumbai (Bombay) or Shanghai and the grinding poverty of many slums in urban Asia and in rural Asia,” he said.
Nag also stressed that economies in Asia should be more integrated to create “win-win” situations for all players.
“Our point is that we have to think about region integration as a way of reducing disparity between countries,” Nag said.
Touching on the possibility of a common currency in Asia, Nag said ADB officials have studied the proposed Asian Currency Unit, although only at the initial theoretical level.
The ADB researchers now are looking at the ACU from an “analytical research work perspective, rather than policy perspective,” he said. “It is not something which is imminent.”
Nag is in Japan to meet with government officials and prepare for a general ADB meeting scheduled in Kyoto in May to mark the 40th anniversary of the international institution.
Japan is the ADB’s largest donor and, customarily, the post of president has been occupied by a Japanese. The current president is Haruhiko Kuroda.
Nag said the ADB is now involved more in policy affairs.