Japan nominates senior finance official for ADB chief

By Kyoko Hasegawa, AFP

TOKYO — Japan nominated a senior finance ministry official Thursday for the top job at the Asian Development Bank, as Tokyo looks to keep hold of a role it has held for almost 50 years. Tokyo said it had named Takehiko Nakao, vice finance minister for international affairs, as its pick to head the Manila-based ADB with its current chief expected to take over as head of the Bank of Japan. ADB head Haruhiko Kuroda was nominated last week as governor of Japan’s central bank, and the Oxford University graduate said he would step down from the anti-poverty lender later this month. Finance Minister Taro Aso on Thursday described Nakao, 57, as the “most qualified candidate for fulfilling the important responsibilities of the ADB President,” citing his “broad and in-depth knowledge of the Asian region.” The foreign-exchange policy bureaucrat has “fostered close relationships with leading figures” across Asia, the Group of 20 leading economies and organizations including the International Monetary Fund, Aso said. Nakao has been a public face in Tokyo’s battle to fend off accusations from abroad, particularly in Europe, that it had engineered a decline in the yen in recent months to help the country’s hard-hit exporters.

Critics warned that Japan’s monetary policy could set off a global currency devaluation war. Since its founding in 1966, every ADB president has been Japanese with the position seen in a similar light to the historical hiring of an American for the World Bank’s top job and a European at the International Monetary Fund. However emerging nations have become increasingly vocal critics over U.S. and European control of such institutions even as their own economic power and global influence soars. Japan and the U.S. are the ADB’s two largest contributors and hold about one-quarter of its voting power, but the hiring of Nakao is not a shoo-in with regional giants China and India also holding some sway over the process. It was unclear if other member countries would nominate a contender to challenge Nakao, but Tokyo’s finance chief said Japan was lobbying for Nakao’s hiring with the ADB’s 66 other member nations and regions. “It is a shared understanding of the international community that heads of international institutions should be elected on an open, transparent and merit basis,” Aso said in a statement. “In this regard, I will seek strong support from all ADB member countries for Mr. Nakao’s candidacy for President.” On Thursday, Nakao cited improved quality of life among the lender’s vast membership as a key goal with special attention on areas including infrastructure, the environment, education and financial sector development. “The importance of enhancing private-sector development, which is the source of growth, goes without saying,” he said in a statement, calling on members to “pursue sound macroeconomic policies” while boosting governance and making structural changes in their economies. The new chief of the lender, which helps its developing members with assistance such as loans, grants and technical support, will be elected sometime before its annual meeting in May, Jiji Press reported.

The successful candidate needs to get majority support both in terms of voting power and members, who include Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Pakistan.