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LEAD: ADB talks begin, ASEAN-plus-3 to mull financial cooperation

ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 4 Kyodo


The Asian Development Bank kicked off its three-day annual meeting Wednesday at a time when the outlook for the regional economy remains rosy.

Participants are expected to vow efforts to maintain the growth momentum gained through last year''s strong economic performance.

The Manila-based ADB said in a report earlier this month it projects economic growth in developing Asian countries to reach 6.5 percent this year and 6.6 percent next year, compared with last year''s 7.3 percent.

''''This is a moment full of promise. Developing Asia is in the midst of a fundamental and far-reaching transformation. It is no longer on the periphery of the global economy -- it is central to global economic progress,'''' ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said in his opening address.

''''The real potential for achieving higher levels of development effectiveness lies in Asia. Asia is clearly a region where development works,'''' he said.

The regional financial leaders are also expected to explore avenues for tackling a host of challenges ahead such as a slower pace of global trade expansion and moderating growth in China along with higher oil prices.

On the fringes of the ADB talks, finance ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, South Korea and China will meet Wednesday to discuss ways to expedite regional financial cooperation.

The ASEAN-plus-three ministers are expected to increase the total amount available for bilateral currency swaps -- now about

$39.5 billion -- under the Chiang Mai Initiative, a safety net to help the countries involved fight speculative attacks on their currencies.

Another key issue to be taken up will be the acceleration of the forging of Asian bond markets, an alternative strategy for avoiding future financial crises by ensuring that Asia collects more of its own savings for channeling into local investment instead of relying on borrowing from outside the region.

''''Last year, to assist bond market development, the ADB launched its debut local currency bond issues in India and Malaysia. This year, we plan to issue local currency bonds in Thailand, the Philippines and the People''s Republic of China,'''' Kuroda said in his address.

According to a senior ADB official, the planned baht issue expected in June is likely to be worth about $100 million, while ringgit and peso bond issues of around $100 million and $50 million, respectively, are expected sometime this year.

The ASEAN-plus-three forum comprises the 10 ASEAN members -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- and Japan, South Korea and China.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Kyodo News International, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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