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ADB urged to reinvent self to become inclusive

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) should “reinvent” itself by pursuing new development programs to spell wider economic inclusion across the Asia-Pacific after helping transform the region into the “center of gravity” of the global economy, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.

Dominguez, who chairs the ADB Board of Governors this year, said between now and its 51st Annual Meeting in May, the ADB will be holding a series of fora and conferences meant to examine the changing global and regional realities and challenges and, more importantly, determine how the bank can play an “even more effective role” in helping attain inclusive growth for the poorest communities in its member-economies.

He said these upcoming discussions on inclusive growth are in sync with the Duterte administration’s strategy on how to hurdle this kind of challenge, which is through massive investments in infrastructure projects that will link communities to the mainstream of wealth creation, and higher spending on social services such as healthcare and education to liberate millions from poverty at the soonest possible time.

“Over the past five decades, the ADB poured over $250 billion into the Asia-Pacific region. The programs of the Bank no doubt helped transform this region into one of the most progressive and dynamic regions of the world.

Notwithstanding, the Asia-Pacific continues to be home to some of the poorest communities.

There is a challenge for inclusiveness here,” Dominguez said at the press conference yesterday launching the Philippines’ hosting of the 2018 ADB Annual Meeting.

Dominguez said at the press conference, which was held at the Ayuntamiento building of the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) in Intramuros, Manila, that the Philippines’ hosting of the ADB annual event is “fortuitous” for the country as it will provide the government the opportunity to set the spotlight on the domestic economy’s strong growth and its reform agenda to sustain and make it inclusive by improving living standards and dramatically bringing down the poverty rate by 2022.

“With solid fiscal management, a slew of reforms affecting the ease of doing business and administrative innovation to make government truly work for the people, we are proud to showcase the gains we have achieved,” Dominguez said.

He said the Philippines itself has benefited immensely from its strong partnership with ADB, which has been one of the country’s biggest sources of official development assistance (ODA) over the past five decades.

“The regional bank financed some of our most important infrastructure projects and given us grants to study many facets of our development,” Dominguez said.

According to Dominguez, as this year’s host, the Philippines will lead the discussions around the 2018 theme “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development,” and will invite “some of the world’s best and most influential minds to enrich our deliberations.”

Dominguez expressed confidence that these preliminary discussions to be held before the annual meeting of the ADB Board of Governors on May 3-6will help enlighten the agenda of this year’s conference.

“After five decades, this is a good time to explore possibilities for reinventing the Bank and inaugurating new programs to enable the Bank to play an even more effective role in Asia’s unfolding,” he said.

Dominguez said the Board is intent on crafting more inclusive modes of development in the course of its deliberations in response to several global trends, among them are the Asia-Pacific’s rise as the “center of gravity of the global economy and its most important growth driver,” the increasing hostility to free trade in some of the countries in the West, and the emergence of new multilateral institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

“We look forward to working closely with all the delegations from the member-countries and observers from all over the world to ensure the successful conduct of the 51st Annual Meeting,” Dominguez said.

“We warmly welcome all the delegates to the country and offer the best we have to ensure this meeting will be both productive and enjoyable,” he added.

Besides this year’s event, 15 previous Annual Meetings were also held in Manila, with the most recent one in 2012 and an earlier small-scale meeting in 2003.

The event will be attended by the finance and development ministers and central bank governors of the Bank’s 67 members, of which 48 are from the Asia-Pacific region.

Representatives from the Bank’s development partners, private sector and civil society organizations, media, and the academe will also troop to Manila to take part in the four-day event.

The series of ADB events, which will be preceded by several preliminary ones beginning with today’s press launch, include the opening session and the business sessions, which will be attended by the ADB governors to discuss governance concerns and the Bank’s operational directions.

Several host-country events have also been organized to discuss the Philippines’ economic directions and promote its business, trade, and investment prospects.

This year’s host, the Philippines, is one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and has been named as a “rising star” in foreign direct investments by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. With President Duterte’s strong political will to implement game-changing reforms, the Philippines is poised to sustain its robust economic growth anchored on a five-year, P8.4 trillion (over $168 billion) “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure modernization program and higher spending on human capital development and social protection.

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