There is no universal strategy for pursuing a triple bottom line of high, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth, but better governance is an imperative.
Director General, Independent Evaluation
Vinod Thomas is Director General of the Independent Evaluation Department at ADB. Prior to his appointment in August 2011, Thomas held various senior posts at the World Bank, including Chief Economist for Asia and Director General of the Independent Evaluation Group. He formerly lived in Brazil as Country Director for the World Bank, wrote a popular book entitled From Inside Brazil, and travelled with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on his first trip to India. Thomas enjoys travelling with his camera in provinces and towns in the Philippines.
Asian countries are increasingly turning to investing in dedicated development programs rather than relying entirely on economic growth to deliver better social outcomes. Evaluations of their actual impact have not always accompanied such decision making, but where they have, it has made a key difference.
Striking rates of economic growth notwithstanding, 550 million people remain hungry in Asia and the Pacific, 65% of the population has no safe piped water, and more than 600 million people live without electricity. Overcoming these problems requires a combined approach in which food, water and energy are treated as a nexus, rather than as separate, standalone issues, which has too often been the case in the past.
The recent stability of food prices in Asia and the Pacific presents policymakers a window for addressing several crucial issues that, if ignored, risk reigniting the food price crisis of 2007–2012 and undermining the region’s rise out of poverty.
For development institutions, private sector investments offer plenty of potential for promoting inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth at a profit. But how successful are they in achieving actual development gains?
Evidence-based strategies—the pragmatic pursuit of polices that worked—were at the front and center of developing Asia’s extraordinary success in raising living standards and reducing extreme poverty over the past two decades.
A global debate on what comes after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015 is already in full swing. For Asia and the Pacific, a new development agenda will need to address those MDGs that made only slow progress or regressed and a number of emerging development issues gaining prominence.
The human and economic toll from natural disasters since global leaders met at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 has been staggering. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimates that natural disasters caused 1.3 million deaths and $2 trillion in economic damage worldwide since then.
In development, as in matters of health, prevention is better than cure. Had policymakers acted boldly to avert well-recognized economic imbalances before 2008, the financial crisis may have been avoided.
Asia symbolizes the striking progress that has been achieved in reducing poverty but also the daunting gaps in environmental destruction and climate change. It’s rightly said that the war on climate change will be won or lost in Asia. The Asian Development Bank is uniquely positioned not only to support a more environmentally sustainable development agenda but also to lead in important aspects of this endeavor.