Recently in The Financial Times, Larry Summers criticized the U.S. for not backing the creation of a new China-led international bank that would finance major infrastructure projects across the Asia Pacific region. The former U.S. secretary of treasury called it a “failure of strategy and tactics” and called for “a comprehensive review of the U.S. approach to global economics.” Diplomats and business executives from Asia and Europe have embraced the bank. Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, South Korea and Australia are among more than 40 nations who have brushed aside the White House’s concerns over the intentions of the bank and whether it will follow “high quality, time-tested standards.”
China will provide much of the AIIB’s initial $100 billion in funding. The bank is expected to be up and running by the end of this year. The AIIB will help finance transport, water, energy and other infrastructure projects. The new bank will move quickly to prove skeptics wrong by demonstrating that it can be more effective than the World Bank and other regional development banks in financing infrastructure while addressing legitimate community concerns about relocation and compensation for any loss of housing or income. Recently, the World Bank admitted to “serious shortcomings in the implementation of its resettlement policies,” adding that it plans to fix its problems with a “plan that will improve the oversight and management of resettlement practices to ensure better protection of people and businesses affected by bank-funded projects.”
The new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has the chance to develop strong, new and effective accountability mechanisms that all shareholders would support. A strong independent evaluations department not beholden to any single shareholder must be part of that. Mechanisms to review and ensure compliance with the bank’s own rules are also critical. As Summers noted, it is time for the US to wake up to a new economic era. Strengthened engagement with Asia and all its major financial institutions must be part of that.