Closing Statement by ADB President Takehiko Nakao at the 47th ADB Annual Meeting (as drafted).
Mr. Chairman, Minister Dossaev, ADB Governors, ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of you for your participation and contributions during this 47th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank.
There were so many important views expressed in last two days. These views will guide us going forward. I would like to pick up ten issues in this closing statement.
First, many of you expressed concerns about the still unstable global economic situation. We shared that to weather possible challenges, it is crucial to pursue prudent macroeconomic management and bold structural reforms. ADB will continue to support our developing member countries in achieving these objectives.
Second, I thank you for your strong support of the outcome of the Mid-Term Review of ADB’s Strategy 2020 and our ten strategic priorities. Many of you mentioned that it is more important to effectively implement the priorities than to have completed the paper. I fully agree with you. I have already established a senior level steering group and several working groups to carry out the outcomes of the Mid-Term Review. I will ask you and the Board members to continue to provide necessary inputs and guidance in the process of implementation.
Third, you asked ADB to continue its focus on poor people and the poorest countries. You expressed concern about the growing inequalities, and also emphasized the importance of gender issues. As we clearly stated in the midterm review, ADB will address these issues squarely. In order to promote inclusive growth, we will expand our operations in education, health, and social protection. We remain committed to our vision of the region free of poverty.
Fourth, climate change and disaster risk management. We had a good discussion on disaster prevention and management in the Governors’ Plenary yesterday morning, too. We commit to strengthen our work in these areas and will seek to use innovative approaches such as disaster risk insurance as suggested by several Governors. For the Pacific developing member countries, climate change is of even greater concern. As they requested, we will explore the ways to enable these countries to access various climate change funds better through supporting capacity building and preparation of projects.
Fifth, many of you highlighted region’s large infrastructure financing gap. As stated in the Mid-Term Review, infrastructure will remain the main focus of ADB operations. In addition, we will proactively seek opportunities for mobilizing private sector funds including through PPP. We also shared the view that the regional cooperation and integration initiatives will contribute to enhancing connectivity through such infrastructure as cross-border roads, railways and power.
Sixth, many Governors emphasized the need of ADB’s continued relevance to middle income countries. Middle income countries have challenges such as aging, urbanization, increasing inequalities, and environmental degradation. They require increased knowledge support based on ADB’s expertise and experience in other countries. I can assure you that ADB will continue to help middle income countries address challenges by tailoring its responses to country’s specific conditions.
Seventh, I take note of your guidance to support capacity development in our developing member countries. In particular, we need to help countries strengthen governance, budgeting systems and financial sector development, and create enabling environment for the private sector.
Eighth, many of you urged us to keep ADB a lean and efficient organization. I commit myself to continue to pay close attention to administrative expenses. I will look for potential areas of savings and will keep our future budget increases as small as possible. To this end, we have started an iterative consultative process with the Board to jointly consider budget, salaries, operational workplan, and financial planning parameters in a holistic manner.
Ninth, many of you expressed concerns about the level of disbursements. You emphasized the importance of improving project implementation, and reducing transaction costs. I share these concerns. To tackle these issues, we have already started streamlining business processes, especially for procurement. I also agree with you that ADB will need to attract and retain highly skilled and motivated staff to support project implementation and other important works. We will also strengthen our resident missions by providing greater mandate and capacity.
Tenth, I acknowledge your broad support of our proposal to combine the lending operations of the ADF with the OCR balance sheet. I noted that some Governors requested clarification on the use of increased lending capacity, governance of the new structure, and strategy for ADB’s future role in the region. I will work on these issues. But, here, I would like to reaffirm that this proposal is consistent with the mandate for which ADF donors have given us when they made ADF contributions. The benefits of the proposal will focus on the continuing needs of the poorest countries in the region. I understand this innovative approach would involve a lot of issues and questions. We have just started consultations with shareholder and donors. We will continue to closely work with you on this proposal to build consensus in time. At the same time, we will also explore other ways of increasing ADB’s lending capacity including the possibility of capital increase with the guidance of the shareholders and their consensus.
Once again, thank you for lively and valuable discussions during these two days. All the views you expressed will guide our policies and operations in the coming year.
This meeting marks the completion of my first year as the President of ADB. I highly value your support and guidance during this year and in particular during this annual meeting.
In closing, let me congratulate the Governor for Azerbaijan, who will serve as Chair of the Board of Governors for the coming year. I look forward to meeting with all of you again next year in Baku. I also like to take note of the intention of the Government of Japan to host the Annual Meeting in 2017, which will mark 50th anniversary of ADB.
On behalf of all of us again, I would like to reiterate our deepest gratitude to the Government of Kazakhstan for hosting this remarkable and beautiful Annual Meeting. I especially want to extend my appreciation to the people of Astana for their warm hospitality, and the many officials and volunteers who have helped make this meeting a success.
Thank you again, and have a safe and pleasant journey home.