The Asian Development Bank (ADB), a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Manila, the Philippines, was founded to provide aid, funding, and various forms of financial and technical support to countries in Asia and the Pacific. The ADB started operations in 1966 and initially represented a group of 31 states. As of 2006 it had grown to have 66 members. This included 47 states from inside the zone and 19 countries elsewhere.
The bank’s stated goal is to improve the lives of the peoples of the region by helping them develop economically and socially. This is a major task given the depths of poverty encountered in some regions. Many area peoples live on less than $2.00 per day. The bank has a specific commitment to helping less-developed and poorer Asian countries to advance economically. This help can take several forms and affect regional, subregional, and local projects and programs.
The goals of the ADB are varied and include developments to foster economic growth and projects to reduce poverty. The organization also attempts to assist in the improvement of conditions that affect women and children as well as to implement strategies that encourage human resource development and to promote environmentally friendly strategies for growth.
The total lending volume is around $6 billion in the early 2000s, with technical assistance programs totalling $180 million a year. These financial programs can involve both public and private investments. In terms of economic development, the bank evaluates requests for help and then determines where its assistance is most appropriate. It favors proposals that offer a combination of social and economic development. It hopes that at least 50 percent of the projects will produce social or environmental benefits. Its other priorities are geared to economic growth and development. The bank also attempts to match its lending with governmental contributions.
The ADB’s work encompasses many different activities and embraces many diverse areas. For example, the bank’s efforts affect agriculture and resources, finance, transport and communications, economic and social infrastructure, industrial investment, and mineral extraction projects. The ADB receives numerous proposals from its members for particular projects, which it assesses to determine their relative merits. It analyses the viability, value for money, economic and social impact, technical realities, provisions for accounting oversight, and contract and bidding implementation as well as openness and overall development priorities. After a thorough review and analysis—which can include review by outside agencies and consultants—worthy projects receive the bank’s approval, and a schedule for completion is determined that also details performance guidelines and expectations.
The ADB is directed by a board of governors with one representative drawn from each member country. This board then elects a 12-member board of directors, with eight of the 12 coming from Asian-Pacific countries. The governors also elect a bank president, who acts as chairperson for the board of directors and whose term is five years, with the possibility of reelection. Traditionally the president has been a Japanese. This choice reflects Japan’s heavy investment in the bank of approximately 13 percent of its shares, a figure matched only by U.S. investment. Countries that withdraw from the organization have their investment reimbursed.
In 2006 there were projects and feasibility studies in areas such as road development in Afghanistan, infra- structure and transport strategies for India, telecommunications investment in Cambodia, road improvements in the Solomon Islands, water management programs in China, and regional efforts in energy-related areas.
In recent years the bank has developed anticorruption initiatives. As in related institutions such as the World Bank, corruption can work against the developmental interests of poor countries. In theory, all projects must undergo regular and intensive ADB audits, yet issues still remain as to the misuse or misappropriation of funds and the wasteful use of project money. There are also concerns that there have been projects approved that do not help the poor as they should.