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ADB sets new priorities for Asia and the Pacific as meeting closes

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THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) reaffirmed its commitment to eradicate poverty for a “prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific” as its 51st Annual Meeting concluded on Saturday, pledging to stay relevant amid the rapid advances in digital technologies.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao and the host country led the concluding remarks for the meeting held from May 3 to May 6 under the theme: “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development.”

In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Nakao bared the 10 priorities that will be the focus of the multilateral lender’s Strategy 2030, which it also discussed during the three-day meeting:

1. Tackle remaining poverty and increasing inequalities in Asia and the Pacific through expanded social services

2. Accelerate progress in gender equality

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3. Scale up support to combat climate change, build climate and disaster resilience, and enhance environmental sustainability

4. Build livable cities that are competitive, green, resilient, and inclusive

5. Promote rural development and food security

6. Strengthen public sector governance

7. Foster regional cooperation and integration

8. Mobilize private sector resources

9. Further strengthen ADB’s role as a provider and facilitator of knowledge

10. Pursue a stronger, better, and faster ADB.

“Strategy 2030 will renew our strong commitment to eradicate extreme poverty in the region and expand our vision to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific. These aspirations will be aligned with the international agenda, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” he said.

Mr. Nakao said there is a need to “further efforts to accelerate disbursements and increase co-financing,” while “promoting innovative approaches and advanced technologies.”

He noted that the ADB approved a new procurement policy last year that supports the adoption of high-level technologies, leading to reduced procurement time.

These technologies include the use of satellite data and remote sensing that it uses on irrigation projects in Indonesia and Pakistan.

Mr. Nakao added that the regional lender is in a “good position” to reach its target of doubling annual climate finance to $6 billion by 2020 from $4.5% billion last year.

“One significant factor that will help drive the region’s future growth is advancements in technology,” he said, adding that it will have a “huge potential to raise productivity and improve our daily lives.”

Finance Secretary and outgoing chairman of the ADB Board of Governors Carlos G. Dominguez III meanwhile said in his speech that the new long-term strategy will help the ADB improve its capacity to adapt to digital technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and big data.

“Rapid, and especially disruptive, technological progress carries both risks and rewards. The ADB is a vital institution for the region ensuring the risks are mitigated and the rewards evenly distributed,” Mr. Dominguez said.

“ADB Strategy 2030 is a good beginning. It is not a fully developed program for fully adjusting to the new economic balance of power as well as coping with the enormous forces unleashed by technologies. That program will evolve into place — but only if we are prepared to reinvent and rethink,” he said.

Moreover, Mr. Nakao said Asia and the Pacific is “well positioned to sustain its growth momentum,” supported by robust private consumption and investment and anchored by sound macroeconomic policies.

“Active trade and foreign direct investment are the foundation of Asia’s economic success and are essential for continuing solid growth. Despite current disputes among some countries, we firmly believe that countries should make utmost efforts to maintain and foster an open multilateral trade system,” he said.

On Friday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan and Korea sought to enhance their watch against financial shocks amid rising inward-looking policies, agreeing to strengthen cooperation in multilateral trade and enhance resilience.

The ASEAN+3 finance ministers and central bank governors issued a joint statement on late Friday after their 21st meeting on the sidelines of the 51st ADB Annual Meeting noting that they remain vigilant against downside risks that may threaten their contribution to the recovery in the global economy.

“We discussed the risks posed by rising trade protectionism and faster-than-expected tightening in global financial conditions, and uncertainty of geopolitical tension. These risks, individually or collectively, threaten the recovery in the global economy, and could induce large capital outflow and financial volatility in our region,” the joint statement read, adding that it welcomed the Panmunjeom Declaration peace agreement between North and South Korea.

The ASEAN+3 member-states said they recognize the “importance of resisting all forms of protectionism,” adding they will work to deepen intra-regional and global trade and investment linkages.

The regional bloc said that it “will strengthen regional surveillance and remain vigilant against the risks of contagion and spillovers from excessive capital flow volatility.”

On Saturday, Mr. Nakao said the Philippines remains to be among the fastest growing economies in the region due to strong investment and consumption, as it expects the country to grow 6.8% this year, although below the government’s 7-8% target.

The ADB President lauded the Duterte administration’s infrastructure plan, and noted its financing activities in the country including the urban mass transport in Manila and Davao, the Malolos-Clark railway, roads and bridges in Mindanao, and clean water and sanitation in local communities.

ADB is also supporting the country’s school-to-work programs, financial inclusion and capital market reforms and the government’s cash transfers for the poor, he added.

Fiji will host next year’s meetings, a first for a Pacific developing member country, with the theme “Prosperity Through Unity.” — E.J.C. Tubayan

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