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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Letters to the Editor

ADB coverage lacks balanced approach

The Advertiser is proving a worthy host to the Asian Development Bank meetings. Just as the ADB is a for-profit bank masquerading as a group that is "trying to address poverty in developing nations," The Advertiser (which is owned by Gannett Co., the largest newspaper company in the world) pretends to have no self-interest or agenda.

We hear that citizens, who are always referred to as protesters, are "unruly ... raucous ... alarming ... troublemakers." We are told that the violence in Seattle was done by protesters and not by the police, who used so much tear gas they ran out and had to buy more from Idaho, and who gassed and sprayed people nowhere near the protests, and were so brutal that the police chief had to resign.

As a society, do we want eight corporations to own 50 percent of our media and to rewrite our history for us? Why aren't we hearing about the 3,000 Thai peasants who protested this do-gooding bank? Or the environmental devastation their ill-fated projects have consistently caused?

Is it because the same few people who own the corporations, who own the banks, who own the resorts and the golf courses, who privatize our water and electricity and food, also own our media and direct our police departments and militaries? And they are frightened of the facts, of the messages of the peaceful protesters and the commonalities between all peoples who are exploited by these rich few.

Elijah Manders

Pro-ADB commentary intriguing for vagueness

While none of the commentary articles in Sunday's Focus section came close to dealing with the root of the controversies surrounding the Asian Development Bank and other such "supra-governmental" institutions, the one titled "Hawai'i represents what the ADB is fighting for" was the most intriguing for its vagueness.

Unfortunately, the end result, while not purely facile drivel (one must not be unkind in the Land of Aloha despite its own indigenous capacity for ribald satire) provides the perfect example of how meaningful discussion on any issue is impossible if we are always appealing to our own vision of common sense.

There seems to be a growing acceptance that accumulated complexes of capital should take precedence over smaller units (such as individuals) in areas even outside of the economic field. There are many examples of this trend: the case of shareholders receiving precedence over simple deposit customers in banking and over the value of workers in the workplace.

But now, it seems, people are being asked to accept that complexes of private capital are the fundamental unit of democracy, the triumphal emergence of the true "corporate citizen."

Fortunately, it's an article like "Hawai'i represents what the ADB is fighting for" that shows six authors are not necessarily better than one, no matter how much capital they represent.

Bruce Hougan

Media coverage will have adverse effect

Your bold front-page headline on May 5, "City prepares for protests," and the accompanying article about the drastic measures the city's courts, police, hospitals and businesses (and even the National Guard) are taking in expectation of violence against the Asian Development Bank meeting will have an adverse effect on today's demonstration. I believe this article will:

• Scare off people who otherwise might have come and protested peacefully (which the vast majority of demonstrators will do).

• Attract the very type of protesters the city doesn't want (those prone to violence).

• Detract from the legitimate and urgent concerns that the organizers of the demonstration are attempting to address.

Violence at demonstrations is both dangerous and counterproductive. But it is usually quite rare. Despite what the media coverage would have us believe, even at the recent demonstrations in Seattle and Quebec, the vast majority of protesters were peaceful.

The demonstration in Honolulu today will be addressing serious issues that affect millions of poor people in Asia. Previous editorials demonstrate that your editors agree that these concerns need to be addressed.

Joanne Heisel

And I've got some neat stock I want to sell you

How could I be so dumb? I used to think the bottom line for banks was profit. But now, thanks to the local pro-Asian Development Bank media blitz, I can see globalization for what it really is: a kinder, gentler capitalism, compassionately conquering developing nations.

Thanks to the media makeover, I've realized that these kinds of institutions have suspended their fundamental bottom lines for a humanitarian mission. People before profit.

The unprecedented power that globalization grants the ADB and its sister institutions could never, ever be used to usurp local self-determination and self-governance in developing nations.

Because we in Hawai'i so love big government and corporations directing our lives, it would be silly to speak up for people so far away. And besides, I almost forgot that I have stock in Mother Theresa's Savings and Loan.

Patrick DeBusca Jr.

ADB meeting here is raising my dander

I protest the existence of the Asian Development Bank, and will demonstrate against the meeting here.

ADB loans are made to unknowing or corrupt officials for the benefit of local wealthy citizens and international construction firms, many of them American. The major effect on the local poor people is they are stuck repaying the loan.

I am not a visitor. My residency has lasted 35 years. I don't know if I have a history of civil disobedience, but I would be proud to be so categorized. If the police have spent money on training so they can control this little old lady, I suppose that means they will be careful of my false teeth, my eyeglasses and my bum knee, and I appreciate their concern.

Dorothy I. Cornell

Who is bankrolling anti-globalism effort?

I have been reading about the organized reaction to the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and other financial and economic institutions. It is obvious there is someone or some organization that is financing this resistance; it costs a lot of money to send and put up the protesters.

But none of the magazines or newspapers I have read in the past year has identified who it is. It would be a real scoop if one of our local journalists would supply at least a part of this information.

Peter L. Nelson

Big government takes aim at small business

Pity the plight of the put-upon and defenseless small businesses across Kapi'olani Boulevard from the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Many of them went broke trying to do business during the years it took to build the center.

More the pity to those who survived the din, disarray and dust of construction only to face the threat of eviction because they do not fit the mayor's personal vision of what he calls "the gateway of Waikiki." Pity even more Da Hui, a surf shop that just moved in at great expense and is threatened with the same condemnation.

Small Business Hawai'i and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i, to my knowledge, have not rallied to the defense of these legitimate businesses.

This gives an eerie edge to the title of the recently chamber-sponsored forum, "Small Business on the Move."

These businesses battle on alone against arbitrary and heavy-handed big government. Surf on, Da Hui. Rock on, Rock-Za.

Richard Y. Will

Economist's 'advice' ignores ADB failures

Regarding Brhm Prakash's May 7 commentary trumpeting the Asian Development Bank's advice to developing countries: The "advice" must have come from someone who has not read the ADB's own reports on the many failures of its loan projects.

Nor has the writer listened to the voices of the tens of thousands of affected citizens who loudly told the ADB to get out of the business of loaning big bucks to authoritarian local governments in connivance with go-between elites and large foreign corporations that reap most of the benefits.

Just one glaring example of the ill-advised "recommendations" will suffice to show how dim-witted these ADB economists are when dispensing their "wisdom": "Economies relying on centralized bank-based finance might also have to turn toward securities markets, which could prove more efficient in providing venture capital for new technology start-ups." Hello, where was economic guru Prakash during the 1997 "Asian" financial crisis?

Remember, it was precisely foreign (read U.S. and other capitalist) "free market" speculative capital that precipitated the multibillion-dollar collapse of the various Asian economies. Subsequently, it was the IMF-imposed austerity programs (the IMF being the philosophical mentor of the ADB) that created even more poverty among the suddenly unemployed.

With "advice" like this, it's no wonder so many workers and peasants of Southeast Asia are taking to the streets and (to paraphrase an often-used metaphor from the West) "voting with their feet" — and fists — against the ADB dictates.

Danny Li

ADB is one of the good guys helping Pacific area

I am writing as someone with six years of firsthand knowledge of developing infrastructure projects in Micronesia, but none directly with the Asian Development Bank.

I wholeheartedly support the protesters and their views that there are profiteers operating in the Pacific taking advantage of cash handouts and grants. I have witnessed corruption (well documented recently in The Advertiser) and inordinate waste on several projects performed under the auspice of "foreign aid."

The real tragedy is that whenever large amounts of funds are desperately needed to improve the living conditions of the poor, vultures hover just waiting for their piece of the carrion.

Nineteen people died last year on Pohnpei because they could not go to a tap in their kitchen and pour a clean glass of water.

In Chuuk (Truk), I witnessed children my daughter's age playing in their own feces because in heavy rains the sewer backs up and their playground gets flooded. What's more, raw sewage is being pumped directly into the lagoon (an environmental nightmare) because the treatment plant is in desperate need of repair and maintenance. This condition existed in 1986, and nothing has been done since.

Why do these conditions exist? Because block grants and foreign aid are not earmarked for specific projects.

So where does the ADB come in? ADB earmarks funding for specific projects, and 100 percent of the funds go directly to the project and so to the benefit of the people.

To protest ADB as a globalizing industrialist is ludicrous. The ADB is one of the few agencies that provide appropriate funding for these essential projects.

Not all their projects are 100 percent successful. I have seen several abandoned at the 80 to 85 percent complete stage through procurement oversights and underestimating the logistical costs of construction in the area.

What needs to happen is an easing of the bureaucracy surrounding loans and grants, and committed professionals administering the funds to ensure proper disbursement.

Alexander S. Causey
President, Oceanic Companies Inc.