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Side Event

Protecting Aging Societies in Asia from the COVID-19 Pandemic

An Asian Development Bank Institute and Center for Strategic International Studies Seminar
Wednesday, 16 September 2020, 1:00 pm–2:45 pm, GMT+8 | Tokyo time (GMT+9): 2:00 p.m.–3:45 p.m.


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many social and economic challenges and risks, particularly for vulnerable groups like the elderly. Recognizing these challenges and risks, the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) and the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) cohosted this webinar in conjunction with the 53rd ADB Annual Meeting, on 16 September 2020.

To guarantee the safety and well-being of aging societies in Asia amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the webinar addressed the challenges associated with growing aging populations and explored ways to formulate effective strategies and policy responses for the countries of developing Asia. The webinar took place through two discussion panels.

Panel 1, moderated by Chul Ju Kim of ADBI, focused on the importance of social safety nets in protecting the elderly and aging societies in the face of the pandemic. Daniel Runde of CSIS highlighted senior-citizen care and telemedicine as helpful factors for protecting the elderly in Asia. Meredith Wyse from ADB suggested advancing social and financial protection for the elderly through strengthening social insurance schemes with age-related coverage. Lastly, Junji Ueda from Japan's Ministry of Finance drew on the country’s best practices to encourage social security systems for all generations.

Panel 2, moderated by Daniel Runde, discussed the role of innovative technology and education in fostering an inclusive care economy. Eduardo P. Banzon from ADB underlined four factors for a strong digital health foundation, namely governance and regulations, infrastructure, standards and interoperability, and investment and financing. Kevin Tan of the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute suggested proactive policies to minimize the digital divide among the elderly and ensure the quality of intergenerational relations and sociocultural support. Finally, Sakarn Bunnag fron Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health shared Thailand’s experiences on COVID-19 responses for the elderly. The measures included providing financial support, age-care education via distance learning, and elderly-friendly hospital settings.

The webinar was attended by 170 participants from Asia and the Pacific.

Opening Remarks

Tetsushi SonobeDean, ADBI

Before joining ADBI in April 2020, Tetsushi Sonobe was vice president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. His research interest is in development economics, especially field studies of industrial development, human resource development, and sustainable development in developing economies. As dean and CEO of ADBI, he provides strategic leadership to make ADBI’s policy research and capacity building training programs more evidence-based and innovative and reach a wider audience.

Panel 1: COVID-19 and Social Safety Nets in the Face of Rapid Demographic Change

Chul Ju KimDeputy Dean, ADBI

A national of the Republic of Korea, Chul Ju Kim was a secretary to the country’s President for economic and financial affairs before joining ADBI. For more than 30 years, he has been a key policymaker, dealing with a wide range of macroeconomic, financial, and social issues. He was deputy minister for planning and coordination, director general of the Economic Policy Bureau, and director general of the Public Policy Bureau, Ministry of Strategy and Finance. He also has extensive experience in international development, specifically at the World Bank and ADB. He holds a BA in economics from Seoul National University, Republic of Korea, and an MS in finance from Georgia State University, United States.

Daniel F. RundeSenior Vice President, CSIS

Daniel Runde is senior vice president, director of the Project on Prosperity and Development, and holds the William A. Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis at CSIS. A global thought leader and change agent, his work centers on leveraging US soft power and the central roles of the private sector and good governance in creating a more free and prosperous world. Mr. Runde has been recognized for influencing the debate on USAID-State Department relations, as an architect of the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD) Act of the US, and led the debate surrounding the role and future of the World Bank Group.

Junji UedaDirector for Economic and Fiscal Policy Coordination, Ministry of Finance (MOF), Japan

Junji Ueda has been in his role at the MOF in Japan since 2018. Prior to his current position, he was an advisor in the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund starting in 2013. He first joined the MOF in 1994 and has been engaged in extensive analytical work on fiscal and economic policy, including analyses of long-term impacts of demographic changes on Japan’s public finance. He has a PhD in economics from Kyoto University, Japan, a MSc in economics from London University (LSE) and in finance from Lancaster University, both in the UK, and a BA in economics from the University of Tokyo in Japan.

Meredith WyseSenior Social Development Specialist - Aging and Care, ADB

Meredith Wyse joined ADB in 2019 and is responsible for the development of ADB's technical capacity across sectors to adapt to population aging, with a specific focus on the development of work on long-term care systems and services. Prior to joining ADB as staff, Meredith spent 14 years with international NGO HelpAge International, based in Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Thailand. In her last role as head of programs, she was responsible for HelpAge’s portfolio of work in Asia. A national of the United Kingdom, Ms. Wyse has a BA in modern Middle Eastern history and a MSc in development management.

Panel 2: Building Inclusive Care Economy Through Technology and Education

Eduardo BanzonPrincipal Health Specialist, ADB

Eduardo Banzon is principal health specialist in the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department of ADB. He champions universal health coverage and has long provided technical support to countries in Asia and the Pacific. He was president and CEO of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), WHO regional adviser for health financing, World Bank senior health specialist, WHO health economist, PhilHealth vice president for health finance policy and services sector, and a faculty of the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine as well as the Ateneo de Manila University Graduate School of Business in the Philippines.

Sakarn BunnagDirector, Institute of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medical Services, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand

Sakarn Bunnag is currently serving as the director of the Institute of Geriatric Medicine in Thailand. The mission of the Institute of Geriatric Medicine is to advocate the policies for elderly health care to the Ministry of Public Health, to do research, innovation, health service model development, technology assessment, and to support the capacity building of the health workforce for elderly care in Thailand. He is also project manager of the establishment of the ASEAN Centre for Active Ageing and Innovation, an intergovernmental organization of ASEAN member states.

Kevin TanVisiting Senior Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) – Yusof Ishak Institute

Kevin Tan is a cultural anthropologist and sociologist by training, with current research interests in the areas of aging, urban ethnography, borderlands studies, cultural diversity, and migration. He is currently part of the Regional Social and Cultural Studies Cluster at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, working on the topic of demographic change in Southeast Asia.

Event Coordinators

Derek HondoResearch Associate, ADBI

Derek Hondo's research interests include climate change; renewable energy; environmental policy; sustainable urban development; and environmental, social, and governance investment. He holds an MA in global environmental studies from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan and received his pre-medicine BSc in biology from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, United States.

Pitchaya SirivunnaboodCapacity Building and Training Economist, ADBI

Pitchaya Sirivunnabood’s expertise is international economics and finance, specializing in regional economic integration and financial cooperation as well as bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements, development of financial markets, and international/ transnational investment. Prior to joining ADBI, she was an assistant director and the head of finance integration division at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia. She was senior researcher, providing policy advocacy and consultancy for a Thai government think tank, the UNDP’s Asia Pacific Regional Office, and the European Association for Business and Commerce. She was also an assistant director and macroeconomist at the ASEAN Integration Monitoring Office, in charge of surveillance and monitoring process for the ASEAN Economic Community. She has a PhD in international economics (trade and finance) from the University of Utah, United States.