Joint Seminar with the International Monetary Fund

Is Debt Sustainability a Cause for Concern?

Thursday, 2 May 2019, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Is Debt Sustainability a Cause for Concern?

Watch a video recording of the seminar.


Kshama FernandesCEO, Northern Arc

Kshama Fernandes is the managing director and CEO of Northern Arc Capital, a leading non-banking finance corporation in India that invests and connects underbanked institutions and businesses to capital markets investors. Over a decade, the company has enabled USD 10 billion of financing for the underbanked in India, unleashing the power of finance where it is required the most. Kshama has played key policy and advisory roles in the past, and consulted for the World Bank, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, India’s Ministry of Finance, and NSEIT. She is also the recipient of Accion’s Edward W. Claugus award for leadership in financial inclusion.

Mitsuhiro Furusawa Deputy Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

Mr. Furusawa joined the IMF after a distinguished career in the Japanese government, including several senior positions in the Ministry of Finance in recent years. He served as the vice minister of finance for international affairs at the Ministry of Finance of Japan and special advisor to Japanese Prime Minister and to the minister of finance before joining the IMF. His overseas postings for the Japanese government have included IMF executive director, minister (finance) at the Embassy of Japan in the United States, and counselor (finance) at the Embassy of Japan in France.

Sonja GibbsManaging Director, Global Policy Initiatives, Institute of International Finance (IIF)

Ms. Gibbs co-leads IIF policy work on sustainable finance and infrastructure investment. She oversees the IIF quarterly Global Debt Monitor and its analysis of debt-related vulnerabilities such as the rapid buildup in emerging markets’ corporate debt. Ms. Gibbs has over 20 years of experience in banking and finance. She is a chartered financial analyst and received her MBA and bachelor’s degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.

Ishrat HusainAdviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, and Federal Minister, Pakistan

Isharat Husain is currently adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and minister. He was previously governor, State Bank of Pakistan; chairman, National Commission for Government Reforms; and public policy fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. He served the World Bank for over two decades including as country director and as chief economist for the East Asia and Pacific and the Africa regions. As chief of the World Bank’s Debt Division, he helped formulate the Brady Initiative, which mitigated debt burdens in Latin American countries.

Takehiko NakaoPresident and Chairperson of the Board of Directors, ADB 

Takehiko Nakao is the President of ADB and the Chairperson of ADB's Board of Directors. He was elected President by ADB's Board of Governors and assumed office in April 2013. Before joining ADB, Mr. Nakao was the vice minister of finance for international affairs at the Ministry of Finance of Japan.


Stefania PalmaIndonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore Correspondent, Financial Times

Ms. Palma is the Financial Times Singapore correspondent covering the city state, Malaysia, and Indonesia reporting on local economics, politics, finance, and social issues. Previously, she was Asia editor at The Banker magazine where she carried out extensive fieldwork on local economies and financial markets throughout the region. She read for a MPhil in modern Chinese studies at the University of Oxford, which included a research and language exchange at Peking University. Ms. Palma holds a BSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

Seminar Summary

Abundant global liquidity helped developing Asia maintain its growth through the global financial crisis. Emerging markets accumulated record amounts of debt—which stood at 186% of GDP in 2016—facilitated by this easy money. As the era of abundant global liquidity winds down, it is critical to ensure that Asia’s debt level can be sustained. Panelists in this seminar co-hosted by ADB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) discussed how to manage the debt build-up so it does not jeopardize future growth and stability.

Heightened public debt levels will add stress to public finances as interest rates rise making it even more important to ensure that new debt is used to finance investments with adequate returns, particularly in light of the region’s massive infrastructure needs. Creative financing, such as public–private partnerships, may help bridge the financing gap while containing the debt burden. With new official lenders making the network of creditors more complex, there is a need to rethink creditor coordination to ensure it continues to work smoothly. President Nakao emphasized that financial viability is a requirement for all ADB lending, and that assistance terms are adjusted depending on country borrowing capacity, including by providing grants.

Panelists closed by noting that authorities in developing Asia should closely monitor the debt buildup. While the region currently enjoys relatively strong fundamentals, elevated debt burdens do carry a destabilizing potential. Panelists agreed that improved information on public and private debt is critical for better debt management.