August 27, 2010

JAPAN: First ADB President Takeshi Watanabe passes away aged 104

MANILA, PHILIPPINES / Asian Development Bank / News / August 27, 2010

Demise of Takeshi Watanabe, ADB's First President

Takeshi Watanabe, the first President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), passed away in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, 23 August at the age of 104.

Mr. Watanabe played a pivotal role in moving ADB from an idea into a reality, and was unanimously elected as first President at ADB’s inaugural meeting in Tokyo in 1966. He served in the role for six years until 1972.

Mr. Watanabe was in many ways considered to be the “father” of ADB, as it was under his leadership that many of ADB’s policies and targets were established, the first bond was issued in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1969, and in September 1972, donors agreed to set up ADB’s multilateral source of concessional lending, the Asian Development Fund.

He was also instrumental in establishing in the public consciousness ADB’s role as a development agency distinct from others, once likening the organization to a “family doctor” that has an intimate knowledge of his patients, and helps them in their “hour of need”.

“He combined idealism with practicality and can be credited with both helping to create ADB’s identity, as well as putting it on a sound financial footing,” said ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda.

It was under Mr. Watanabe’s leadership as well that ADB emerged as a key source of multilateral assistance in the region. In 1971, he oversaw a 150% increase in ADB’s capital. And by the time he left ADB in 1972, ADB had raised over $200 million from the private capital markets.

After resigning from ADB, Mr. Watanabe took on a number of roles including advisor to the Bank of Tokyo, President of the Japan Credit Rating Agency, and honorary chairman of Japan Silver Volunteers Inc. His book of memoirs of ADB “Towards a New Asia” was published in 1973.

ADB adds:
Takeshi Watanabe, the first President of the ADB, combined idealism with practicality, toughness with compassion. Watanabe once likened the ADB to "a family doctor" who tries to learn about the health of his many patients so he can help in their hour of need. Policies and targets were formulated, and regional surveys were undertaken to develop a fuller understanding of the social and economic conditions of the Bank's developing member countries. The Bank approved its first loan -- a $5 million to the Industrial Finance Corporation of Thailand for onlending to industrial enterprises -- on 23 January 1968, just a little more than a year after it had started business.

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