• Kyodo

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The Asian Development Bank will map out an information and communication technology (ICT) strategy in its effort to help developing member countries reap the benefits of economic globalization, ADB President Tadao Chino said Friday.

Chino also urged the ADB’s 59 member countries to maintain the momentum of economic structural reform, to achieve sustainable economic growth amid the global slowdown.

The ADB’s forthcoming ICT strategy “could help them (developing member economies) respond to globalization,” Chino said in a closing address at the ADB’s 34th annual meeting.

ADB officials said the strategy will likely be announced within months.

Measures to deal with globalization dominated the agenda of the three-day annual gathering.

Chino said globalization opens up opportunities for developing countries, but also involves risks. “The real challenge is to maximize its benefits while minimizing risks,” he said.

Chino told a news conference held later in the day, “Many governors stressed the importance of ICT for further development of Asia-Pacific developing countries.”

For the ADB’s effort to promote ICT in the region, Japan pledged during the gathering it will contribute 1.27 billion yen for the ICT development in the region.

The ADB’s board of governors will embark on the task of setting up an ICT Fund within the organization, which will form a major component of the bank’s ICT strategy.

Japanese officials said the fund will be formally approved within months, and will be expanded if other countries decide to make contributions.

While expressing confidence in the outlook of the Asian economy, Chino urged the ADB’s member countries to further promote economic structural reform to achieve robust growth.

“Governors observed that the economic recovery of the region is continuing. Indeed, it has once again become the fastest-growing region in the world,” Chino said in the closing remarks.

“However, the reform process still has some way to go if the recovery is to be sustained, particularly in view of the expected slowdown in the world economy,” he said.

The ADB projects Asian economic growth will slow to 5.3 percent this year, down from 7.1 percent last year, on lower demand for exports, but forecasts a rebound to 6.1 percent in 2002.

Meanwhile, Chino told journalists that poverty reduction remains a pillar of the Manila-based ADB, and that the lending institution’s board of governors “fully endorsed” the ADB’s poverty-reduction strategies.

During the gathering, Japan pledged an additional 7.9 billion yen for the ADB’s Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction.

As for North Korea’s entry into the ADB, Chino indicated that progress has been slow.

Chino said the ADB received last August a letter from North Korea, citing its intention to become an ADB member.

He said the ADB “immediately notified our member countries” because a consensus is necessary for the approval.

“We are still waiting for responses from the member countries,” Chino said.

South Korea on Thursday reiterated its call to integrate North Korea into the global economy through accession to international financial institutions such as the ADB.

However, North Korea’s membership appears a long way off, because Japan and the United States, the largest shareholders in the ADB, have been reluctant to see Pyongyang obtain membership.

During the annual gathering, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, Japan and South Korea announced a currency swap plan, a major step forward toward further strengthening regional cooperation for greater prosperity.

Japan confirmed bilateral swap agreements with Thailand, South Korea and Malaysia.

Japan said it is also negotiating swap arrangements with China and the Philippines, while South Korea said it is discussing the plan with Thailand and China. China, meanwhile, said it is negotiating with Thailand.

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