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Alice's adventures in IDB-land

A novel experience: Japanese
finance minister Sadakazu
Tanigaki addresses the
Inter-American Development
Bank annual meeting in Okinawa

Okinawa was always a rather improbable place to hold April's annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), so perhaps it was not so surprising that this year's event had such an Alice In Wonderland feel to it. The role of Alice was played by hundreds of Japanese and Korean delegates, who took the opportunity to take their families to the beach while learning about the opportunities of trade with Latin America. Most had never been to an IDB meeting before, which probably made the whole event even curiouser to them than it was to those of the repeat delegates.

But the meetings really did make incredibly little sense on many levels. First, of course, there was the location: it was not unheard-of for people to have passed through seven different airports to get there. On arrival, most delegates were then rather shocked to find that their hotel was a 45-minute taxi ride away from anything else. The standard business of any development bank meeting – men in suits running around having dozens of meetings in a series of luxury hotels – immediately became a comedy of missed connections, GSM phones that don't work in Okinawa, and $100 cab rides in the middle of tropical rainstorms that result in the news that the person you were supposed to be meeting has been unavoidably delayed in the place you just came from.

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