Written by Ann Quon, Head of External Relations
And so, our annual meeting has come to a close. When the final head count is in, we are pleasantly surprised that over 5,900 have registered, including over 500 civil society and 400 media. That is a record and a sign that this is the premier event for those who care deeply about the region.
We’ve covered an enormous amount of ground these past few days. Among the challenges facing the region, was a common view echoing loudly throughout the many seminars, conferences and knowledge sharing events, that ensuring inclusive and sustainable growth was the most critical.
President Nakao summed it up best with governors supporting his vision of three “I’s” –a more innovative, more inclusive and more integrated Asia and Pacific.
With rising inequalities not only across countries but within, the issue of inclusiveness is critical otherwise growth cannot be sustained. Certainly the stark differences between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, not only here in India but elsewhere are a stark reminder of this pressing need.
Secondly, without a concerted push to boost skills and education standards and to encourage innovation and knowledge, the region will not be able to provide productive jobs for all its people, or to graduate from a low skilled ‘Factory Asia’ model.
Thirdly, no country can succeed alone and that we must deepen integration across the region and within the global economy. One need only look at the growing links between South Asia and Southeast Asia and developing Asia’s growing partnerships with Africa and Latin America to see this is starting to happen. Myanmar’s recent re-engagement with the global community and ongoing economic reforms are also an exciting development for regional integration in Asia, as the country provides a natural bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. It opens up huge potential for not just for trade and investment but also cross border trade in energy given its ample hydro and gas reserves.
Finally, developing Asia’s physical infrastructure needs remain immense, and both the public and private sectors, along with ADB which also plays a catalytic role, must find creative ways of raising the necessary resources to fund them. While the financial position of ADB itself is sound, it faces a resource challenge. Low global interest rates have reduced ADB’s income from its liquidity investments. And so we must find ways to work with the private sector, development partners and others to leverage much needed resources.
However, the message from the President at a well-attended closing press conference is clear. Despite the resource challenge, ADB is committed to maintain lending levels at $10 billion a year, and in India, at $2 billion annually for the next three years and will look at all options to overcome the resource challenges ahead.
And so we say goodbye to Incredible India and another successful annual meeting and give thanks to all who made it possible – our gracious host, the Government of India, and the many officials and student volunteers who made it happen.
As we prepare to pack up, there is one last invitation to accept. The organizing committee for the Government of Kazakstan throw a merienda to remind everyone that next year it is their turn as hosts. As a country that straddles Europe and Asia and plays an integral role in connecting the countries of central Asia, it promises to be another successful annual meeting. Goodbye Delhi, Hello Astana!