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ADB and the ‘Development through Empowerment’ delusion: Page 3 of 4

Posted on 7 May 2013
programs that promote private sector needs over public interest priorities. For example, whether private actors in the economy have procedurally simple and swift recourse for redress of unfair actions or incompetence is seen as the litmus test for accountability. Access to accurate and timely information about the economy and government policies is seen as vital to the private sector’s economic decision-making. Predictability is about developing legal frameworks, especially to support private sector development.[6]
 
In light of this, the people need to reclaim “good governance” as a concept framed by equitable and sustainable development based on human rights for all, instead of a concept prioritizing the values of private profit. Real good governance strictly observes the democratic principles of equitable participation and inclusion in decision-making. This is the road to genuine empowerment, which on the one hand, the ADB avowedly pursues in ensuring “people the rights and freedom to make decisions in matters that affect their lives, hold others accountable for their promises, or influence development in their communities or even a wider region”[7], but is tragically a far cry from its actual policy prescriptions and conduct of operations.
 
Experiences on the ground of people and communities show that the ADB’s strategy of "inclusive and pro-poor growth" has not translated into meaningful benefits for the masses and that its deceptive rhetoric is not matched by reality. On the contrary, it has encouraged governments to freeze minimum wages and withhold the rights of workers to association, benefits and protections. It has denied access to water, affordable healthcare, education and transportation services, while its infrastructure projects have led to the displacement of poor and indigenous communities in the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam and various other countries in the Asia Pacific. These impacts, in turn, have incited growing social unrest in these countries.
 
In essence, “pro-poor and inclusive” is a mere catchphrase used by the ADB to justify private sector dominance and market expansion in its operations. It should not come as a surprise why inequality, hunger and unemployment continue to soar in a region with robust economic growth; not when ADB’s policy prescriptions tolerate and feed into the myriad of crises at the outset. ###
 
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NOTES:
 
[1] Asian Development Outlook 2012: Confronting Rising Inequality in Asia (Manila:  ADB, 2012) Retrieved from: http://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/ado2012-highlights.pdf
 
[2] Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) reflects the deprivations that a poor person faces all at once with respect to education, health and living standard. Unlike the Human Development Index which is based on country averages of these same dimensions of deprivation, the MPI is based on the number of people at the household level who face these deprivations simultaneously.  Human Development Report 2010 —20th Anniversary Edition. The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development. (New York: United Nations, 2010).
 
[3] Asia’s Increasing Rich-Poor Divide Undermining Growth, Stability (ADB Report, 2012) Retrieved from: http://www.adb.org/news/asias-increasing-rich-poor-divide-undermining-growth-stability-adb-report
 
[4] Amrita Datta, “Public-Private Partnerships in India: A Case for Reform?” Economic and Political Weekly 44:33 (2009)
 
[5] The Asia-Pacific region is home to 578 million
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