Thursday, March 7, 2013
DJ: Japan Nominates Top Financial Diplomat Nakao As Next ADB Head
TOKYO--Japan made it official that it plans to go all-out to hold on to its nearly half century of leadership atop the Asian Development Bank, announcing Thursday that it has nominated a senior finance ministry official as a candidate to head the regional lender.
Finance Minister Taro Aso said Vice Finance Minister for International Affairs Takehiko Nakao--Japan's top financial diplomat--will compete for the top post of the ADB, a financier of infrastructure projects and social programs in Asia.
The job opened up following the decision by current ADB chief Haruhiko Kuroda to resign to take the helm of the Bank of Japan.
The focus is now on whether any of the bank's member countries will nominate candidates of their own, something ADB officials said has never happened since the bank's creation in 1966. Analysts watching to see if there are any signs that the power balance in one of the world's fastest growing regions has shifted since Japan lost its status as the world's second-largest economy to China in 2010.
Mr. Aso said Japan has already begun lobbying to win support for Mr. Nakao. "We have already started sending letters to the other 66 member nations," the minister told a news conference. Japanese embassies are also contacting them to win their backing, he said.
For Japan, the ADB has a similar role as the World Bank does for the U.S. or the International Monetary Fund does for Europe--a platform of global influence. The ADB's past eight presidents have all been Japanese.
But monopolizing those jobs is becoming increasingly difficult as fast-growing emerging economies question the legitimacy of such practices and demand fair, transparent elections.
The results of open elections are often unpredictable, and Japanese officials appear mindful of what happened at last year's presidential election at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. France and Germany, which had together controlled the bank's presidency since its establishment in 1991, lost it to the U.K. despite their continued economic dominance in the region.
The ADB's electoral rules seem to work in Tokyo's favor. For example, a presidential candidate has to win more than 50% of the member nations' combined "voting power." Japan, the U.S., euro-zone nations, Australia and New Zealand together hold 50.6% of the ADB's voting power.
But a narrow win wouldn't suffice, some Japanese government officials have said. To show the world that Japan is Asia's leader, Tokyo needs a "resounding victory," one of them said.
Mr. Aso said he will "seek strong support from all ADB member countries" for Mr. Nakao, whom he called the "most qualified candidate" with "broad and in-depth knowledge" of Asia.
In the past ADB elections, Tokyo first sought to secure backing from the U.S. and the other Group of Seven leading industrial nations, which are non-regional members of the ADB, and then contacted other big ADB donors, such as China and India, according to serving and retired Japanese finance bureaucrats.