First News
Volume:7, Number:45
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Business & Finance 1

Yodel from Yokohama

In 50 years, the Asia-Pacific region has graduated from being one of the poorest regions in the world to significant economic development and poverty reduction

| Monowar Hossain |

For effective and successful utilization of aid and assistance to the benefit of the people and the country, Bangladesh has outpaced many member countries of Asian Development Bank (ADB) and is enjoying the recognition of being a leading performer in the forum. On some counts, including poverty reduction and connectivity, the country is being placed at the forefront, and thus becoming an example for many aid recipient countries. According to finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Bangladesh in the ADB arena is not merely a simple performer but a 'star performer’.

That Bangladesh's image in the field of development has gone substantially up in ADB's assessment, review and decision-making mechanism was well discernible at all the governor's and executive level meetings held at the 50th annual meeting of the financial body on May 4-7 at Yokohama in Japan. In the governors' meeting (meeting of the finance ministers of the member countries), a proposal for establishing 'regional hub' for coordinating and overseeing the ADB aided projects at a faster pace in the capital of a member country in the south Asia region was aired by the lobby of that country. But this idea did not hold air in its sail. Bangladesh opposed the idea of establishing a regional hub on the grounds that such a step would create bottlenecks in communication between the ADB headquarters in Manila and the concerned country, besides advancing scope for demonstrating influence by the country accommodating the regional hub and, thus, would slow down the pace of project approval and implementation process. Finance minister Muhith in the presence of an executive director hailing from India told the ADB president Takehito Nakao categorically, "We are not in favor of any hub".

ADB president disclosed that the bank would continue to support the poorest and fragile countries in their efforts to remove poverty and strengthen economies. Growing inequalities are a major concern for many countries and ADB would enhance support for addressing inequalities across the groups and regions. “And so, strengthening financial inclusion and supporting inclusive business will be integral components of our approach to deepen inclusiveness," said Nakao. Besides, ADB's support and assistance to the programs already undertaken by the member countries, for example, for mobilizing private sector resources, expanding private sector operation, climate change and disaster risk reduction actions, lifting social development (Japan's finance minister strongly spoke in favor of meeting the challenges of aging population in this aspect), strengthening gender equality, improving governance, supporting different needs of the countries and many other challenges in Asia region will continue.

Nakao strongly voiced bank's support for infrastructure development in the region. He said the bank will continue to play a key role in mobilizing vast resources for infrastructure development in the region and for this purpose USD1.7 trillion per year would be required from now through 2030. However, reading his face at this moment, one perhaps can guess that he is not very confident of the result of fund mobilizing efforts. As a substantial change in geoeconomic approach is taking place due to some policies of the new government in America and rethinking of some governments in Europe, huge resource mobilization for infrastructure development in the Asia region might not be so smooth as it happened in the past and perhaps this uncertainty was knocking on his mind, said a representative from a developing country in the south east Asia region.

The president said, "We will scale up to help meet this large infrastructure deficit, increasingly use highlevel technology in infrastructure, vigorously pursue our commitment to climate finance and actively promote public-private partnership." He also thanked the governments of Canada, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands for their new funding commitments for climate change actions, high-level technologies and water. Nakao also announced that the bank would continue to strengthen co-financing efforts with private, bilateral, and multilateral financing partners including new institutions like Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the new development bank (BRICS), and to enhance partnership with think tanks, civil society organizations, and innovative private sector companies.

The session was formally inaugurated on the second day of the meeting by the crown prince of Japan who profusely lauded the theme of the annual meeting "Building together the prosperity of Asia”. His inaugural address was seemingly a booster to the future programs of ADB, especially when he referred to the challenges facing the Asian countries, such as developing infrastructure including power supply networks and transportation facilities as well as addressing natural disasters and climate change. He said 50 years ago when the bank was established, Asia and the Pacific was one of the poorest regions in the world. Now, after a half century, the countries in the region have made significant progress in economic development, and poverty reduction. He strongly hoped that the bank would continue to assist the countries in need to achieve theirs goals to attain prosperity.

On any count, successful function of a development agency for fifty years is praiseworthy and in this regard there was unanimity among the member countries. Finance minister AMA Muhith said "lauded the continuous and growing assistance of the bank to Bangladesh for achieving its targets for improving the condition of the masses. ADB's response to the crisis in the country was very fast. It is ADB, which came forward with many new projects, and ADB and Bangladesh have shared their experiences. We have no concern with regard to the assistance to Bangladesh in the future. But, in the meeting, discussions and seminars focus should have been more on the development and expansion of ICT sector in the growing economies like Bangladesh."

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