Blog Poll: Mobilizing Private Sector Finance Top Development Priority for 2016

Trading in a street market in Lombok, Indonesia.
Trading in a street market in Lombok, Indonesia.

By Satinder Bindra

The private sector alone could raise up to $10 trillion for development finance in Asia; let's direct that investment toward meeting the SDGs.

In our December blog poll, we asked readers what they believed should be the top development priority for Asia and the Pacific in 2016.

Before I share the results with you, a few thoughts about 2015, which was a milestone year in many ways for ADB. We implemented much-needed reforms to better leverage our resources to increase lending to developing Asia ; provided immediate assistance to help Nepal "build back better" after the devastating April 25 earthquake; and agreed to double our climate financing, which will reach an annual $6 billion by 2020. In 2015, ADB approved a record $27.15 billion in loans, grants, technical assistance, and cofinancing.

At the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development held last July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, representatives from the six multilateral development banks and the International Monetary Fund agreed that leveraging private sector resources to invest in development projects is the only way to achieve the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The majority of poll respondents (37%) said mobilizing private sector finance is the top development priority for the region in 2016. ADB estimates that the private sector alone could raise up to $10 trillion for development projects in Asia, so we need to figure out how to direct that investment toward meeting the SDGs.

ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department catalyzes, structures, and funds investments in privately held and state-sponsored companies in developing Asia. We prioritize commercially viable transactions that generate attractive financial returns, while also delivering on ADB’s organization-wide mission to promote environmentally sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

In 2015, ADB approved non-sovereign projects worth $2.63 billion, and generated $10.43 billion in cofinancing with other development partners.

Over a quarter (26%) of our readers picked reducing carbon emissions as a top priority. This was a key theme of last month’s COP21 meeting in Paris, after which ADB President Takehiko Nakao stressed that a global commitment to curb pollution is especially relevant to Asia and the Pacific, the region most at risk from the impacts of climate change. Emission reductions, though, is just part of a long-term strategy for low-carbon economies that need new climate technologies and, more importantly, climate finance – notably from the private sector.

With the urban population in Asia expected to grow by 1.1 billion over the next two decades, it is no surprise that 20% of respondents believe that transforming the region’s sometimes chaotic, polluted and poverty-blighted cities into competitive, equitable, and environmentally sustainable urban spaces should be a the priority in 2016. ADB’s vision for Asia’s future livable cities calls for integrated urban development covering clean water, sustainable transport, energy, solid waste management, urban planning, and financing.

For 10% of our readers, boosting social safety nets is crucial to extend social protection programs to the “missing middle” that work in the informal economy and belong neither to the poorest of the poor nor to those employed in the formal sector who are covered by social insurance. Demographic shifts also bring this issue to the fore. Finally, 5% of respondents noted that gender equality is still a serious concern, and essential for meeting the aspirations of inclusive and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

It’s great to know our blog users’ views on 2016 development priorities as we formulate our own key objectives for this year. Your opinions, you will be happy to note, are shared by and also important to our senior management.