ADBI (ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK INSTITUTE)
On February 26, 2016, the Internatoinal School Network visited the ADBI office in Tokyo to interview Dr. Naoyuki Yoshino, the dean of the office and Keio University Professor Emeritus, Mr. Shinichi Nakabayashi, the Director of Administration, Management, and Coordination, and Dr. Matthias Helbe, the Research Fellow from Germany.
Dr. Yoshino introduced us to that the ADBI has 55 staff members including supporting staff. He explained that only two staff members are Japanese as the rest are form overseas.
Dr. Helbe is a Research Fellow to the ADBI, working in the research department. He is originally from Germany, and he studied international economics in France, USA, and Switzerland. After he obtained his phD, Dr. Helbe worked in the World Bank in Washington to promote development and projects, and then moved to Geneva to work at the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization. He also worked at the Universal Postal Union in Bern. For the past two years, Dr. Helbe has been working here in ADBI here in Tokyo.
Dr. Helbe explained to us that Japan is an important think tank and research institute for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquartered in Manila. ADBI undergoes various resident missions in developing countries of Asia and the Pacific, providing loans and grants to foster economic and social development.
He explained that Japan is a very important member of international organizations in general. Despite the fact that Japan is a great financial contributor to several international organizations, there are only a few Japanese people working in them. For example, there are only about 40 Japanese workers in WHO’s headquarters.
Dr. Helbe commented that Japanese people have gone through very good education, and so they have various important knowledge to bring to the table. He therefore encourages more Japanese people to find opportunities to work at international organizations. He advises finding internship opportunities, especially in Geneva, as he believes it would allow for a very good experience for knowing how the organizations work.
He mentioned to us that the interesting part about working in such organizations is the opportunity to come in contact with different cultures. For example, six languages are spoken in the WHO. Dr. Helbe mentioned that English is always an important language that is spoken in all organizations.
He wishes the Japanese students can study abroad to gain a different perspective of Japan when they come back and to find opportunities to work internationally.
Mr. Shinichi Nakabayashi has been in the Minister of Finance of Japan since
1986 and has worked in the international field of OECD from 1998-2001 and the IMF, which is a sister institution of the World Bank. Mr. Nakabayashi worked at Singapore for the IMF to conduct capacity building training in Asia. He accomplished a two week seminar course in which he traveled across countries in the region to discuss policy issues. Mr. Nakabayashi joined ADBI last year.
Dr. Yoshino explained to us that there are three sections in the ADBI. They are the Research department, in which Dr. Helble belongs, the Capacity Building and Training department, and the Administration and Management department which Mr Nakabayashi is the director.
There are many research topics ADBI covers, such as obseity and overweight, which were discussed on the day and the day before of the interview. Two days before the interview the institute investigated use of post office for financial inclusion. Dr, Yoshino commented that the organization produces numerous books and papers, and the staff often go abroad. He mentioned that ADBI is ranked in second place among 3000 gov affiliated instutitions, and that the ADBI has been working hard to achieve a higher rank.
Dr. Helble explained to us that the International community must work together to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals of the Unied Nations. He was planning to attend a meeting in Dakar, Bangladesh, during the end of March to discuss the importance of SDGs in Asia and their link to international trade. Dr. Helble explained that development promotion in Asia is especially important for the many countries do not have sufficient access to assets such as bank accounts, postal banks, mobile phones, financial services and communication, clean water, education, and transportation facilities. Such problems are hard to understand from the perspective of one living in a first world country. Dr. Helble explained that it is therefore important to visit these countries and interact with the people living there in order to know their situation better. He encourages students to “know better how we cacn help these countries”.
The other area of the ADBI, capacity building, focuses on providing countries with better education and opportunities to learn about recent ideas such as techoloogy and trends, as well as the opportunity to exchange with neighboring countries. Dr. Helble explained that in conferences representatives are given the chance not only to present their problems but also to learn about others and their solutions to various problems. Dr. Yoshino added that ADBI is a “think tank summit”, as well as a “managing headquarter of Asian region”.
Mr. Nakabayashi explained that ADBI conducts various internatinal policy meetings, including thoses that reflect on policy making and policy recommentation to the government. He mentioned that think tanks “normally originate from the USA”, as democracy is very dependent on the activity of think tanks. Mr. Nakabayashi commented that he has attended think tank conferences in parts of the world, such as in Latin America, and has seen much progress. Mr. Nakabayashi believes that India is the world’s “next hope for economic growth”, and that he wishes to contribute more to conferences by sharing his experiences.
Dr. Yoshino explained to us that there are many topics that are discussed in ADBI such as exchagne rates. He mentioned that the Pacific islands do not have independent currencies, hence they are not able to set their own monetary and fiscal policis. ADBI is therefore reaching such countries to establish a better exchange rate system to meet their needs, and in this case proposing a basket currency.
Dr. Yoshino explained to us that ADBI works on various sustainable projects to help countries in Asia. One example is infrastructure investment, especially towards the construction of roads and railways. Dr. Yoshino commented that because fees are regulated by the government, investing in infrastructure has a low rate of return. Therefore he proposes that the cuontry uses some of its tax revenue for infrastructure investors so it can raise rate of returns. Dr. Yoshino mentioned that the inister in Northeast India liked this idea, and that he was invited to visit the area again.
Dr. Yoshino also introduced to us that the ADBI promotes regional econmoic growth such as through financial inclusion. For example, only 36% of the population in Indonesia have bank accounts which causes the country to have a lack of savings and hence a lack of investment. This lessens the circulation of money, and so the country is facing a challenge is to mobilize the money for greater econmic growh. Similarly, many small businesses (or SMEs; Small and Medium Enterprises) in Asia have difficulty borrowing from banks. ADBI has therefore started to collect data bases that record such information in initiative to help sunrise industries.
Mr. Yoshino added that the ADBI is also working on policies to promote clean renewable energy such as wind energy in supporting sustainable development. He explained that this requires funding from hometown investment, and so the ADBI is working to gather investors who are consious about the environment to help in this process. He commented that “sustainable also means a steady economy.” He defined a steady economy as one with few fluctuations in the business cycle, which requires provision of the macroeconomic framework of fiscal and monetary policies.
Mr. Yoshino also mentioned the issue of inclusion; “The poor (low income) segment of the population should also benefit from economic growth”. He explained that this should be done by better policy making and an increase in the production of goods and services, especially merit goods. He believes that a large portion of social tension can be relieved by solving the large income inequality. Mr. Yoshino described “financial inclusion” as the ability for the poor to access bank loans and savings. He believes in microfinancing to conrtibute to decreasing the income gap, especially by providing loans to women. He mentioned that women are also prioritized in financial inclusion in this way.
Mr. Yoshino added that strengthening the progressive tax and education system ar also important when it comes to solving the income disparity. ADBI is undergoing various training activities for capacity building with Japan’s tax bureau. As for education, Mr. Yoshino believes that higher education should be provided inexpensively. He mentioned Germany as an example, where quality education is provided for free.
Dr. Yoshino explained to us the importance of media for the organization. He mentioned that most conferences and seminars of ADBI are broadcasted on the website so that those from all over the world can access them. Because ADBI conducts varoius research, media is an element of sharing information to varoius people. Dr. Yoshino explains that this is crucial for “implementing research in policies”. He compared the type of research done in the institution with the research done by university professors and students. ADBI’s research is very policy-oriented and demand-driven, while universities publish research papers without much focus of how they will be used in the short term.
Dr. Helble mentioned that we are currently at an age where anyone can access different sources of media and news. He explained that ADBI uses this as an opportunity to outreach using social media platforms such as facebook and twitter.
Dr. Yoshino mentioned that Japanese students are generally not very good at other languages, He explains that they tend to listen and speak in education but don’t voice solid opinions. He believes that Japanese students should actively participate in more conferences without focusing on grammar or pronounciation.
Mr. Nakabayashi mentioned that he also believes that Japanese people should speak up in international conferences. He aspires that Japanese people can be more aware of international issues. He encourages students to read the news, and discuss current issues with friends.
Dr. Helble added that being raised Germany, he learnt to speak critically and to discuss about various topics. He noticed that the Japanese are culturally polite and consensus, which he finds admirable because of its created harmonious atmosphere with less contradictions. Yet he still believes that it is always important to critically reflect and ask questions.
Madoka Nishina 12th Saint Maur International School
Kate Shimizu 12th Seisen International School
Karen Nishina 6th Saint Maur International School