New Internationalist

Finance leaders come out to play in the Philippines

For the next four days, the spotlight will shine on the Philippines, as world dignitaries in their creaseless tuxedos and BMWs come to attend the much-touted 45th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Board of Governors.

The event is running from 2 to 5 May, and the excitement in the air is almost tangible.

The ADB Governors Meeting is like the Olympics of the financial world. Some 4,000 delegates from all over Asia and beyond have descended on the Philippines.

It is being held at the historic Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) which sits in the middle of Manila, overlooking a bay area swarming with the country’s homeless and hundreds of street children who while away the time begging for food.

In an interview with this blogger, Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the event is like the coming-out party of the Aquino administration, a chance for it to display the reforms and changes put in place by the government.

Furthermore, he said with conviction, the event aims to give a good impression to different dignitaries and leaders in the monetary and financial world about the progress of the Philippines.

‘Good governance is good economics. That’s what we want to show,’ Purisima continued. He said the event aims to show visitors that since the Aquino administration started, it has waged a tough battle against corruption, which has resulted in increased investor confidence.

This, he said, has translated into more investments for the country and essentially more revenues for the government.

However, what the government failed to consider is the most important question: What exactly can the ADB meeting do to narrow the income gap between the rich and poor nations?

Closer to home, I am curious to know: what can the ADB meeting do in our country to alleviate poverty?

As the meeting happens, the signs of poverty in the Philippines are everywhere. The streets are teeming with the homeless.

I can only hope it’s not all about glitz and glamour, not just a grand party to showcase the Philippines and deodorize the real problems besetting the country. It shouldn’t be an occasion to sweep age-old issues under the rug, but instead be a venue to come out with policies that would genuinely help poor countries such as ours.

It’s about time peer groups such as the G20 and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the ADB really did something to bridge the income gap. It’s about time they did away with band-aid solutions and really look into answers that are lasting in effect.

Will bringing dignitaries together in one meeting help save this nation of 94 million people, where the majority live in teeming poverty, hundreds of youths are out of school and the sounds of grumbling empty stomachs reverberate in shantytowns?

Photo: Flipping Out under a CC Licence

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