2019 Staff Appreciation Event - Takehiko Nakao

Speech | 10 December 2019

Remarks by Takehiko Nakao, President, Asian Development Bank at the 2019 Staff Appreciation Event, 10 December 2019, ADB headquarters, Manila, Philippines

I. Introduction

Dear colleagues and friends: thank you for joining me today.

II. Operational highlights of 2019

It has been a productive year for all of us at ADB headquarters and in our field offices.

Let me briefly summarize the achievements of 2019:

2019 commitments

I will start with the level of new commitments of loans and grants achieved in 2019.

Demand for ADB’s assistance remains strong. We expect to commit as high as $21.8 billion in loans and grants, almost the same level as last year’s $21.6 billion.

For nonsovereign operations, we expect to commit $2.9 billion for 32 projects, which is 21% of ADB’s total operations in the number of projects and on track to achieve the corporate target of 33% by 2024.

Our sovereign commitments include the special policy-based lending (SPBL) of $1.0 billion to Pakistan—the first ever SPBL that ADB provided since the lending modality was established in 1999. This SPBL will facilitate a comprehensive economic reform program supported by the International Monetary Fund. 

Disbursements this year are expected at about $15.6 billion, which is 10% higher than last year’s $14.2 billion.

In 2019, our operations continued to contribute to the corporate targets of Strategy 2030 and others.

Specifically, we reached our target of doubling our climate financing to $6 billion in early December this year, one year early. We have approved a total of $6.2 billion—$4.8 billion for mitigation and $1.4 billion for adaptation.

I am also happy to note that the One ADB approach is being institutionalized in our operations. For example, the Southeast Asia Department, Office of Public-Private Partnership, and the Private Sector Operations Department (PSOD) pooled their expertise and resources together to deliver the National Solar Park project for Cambodia. The Pacific Department worked jointly with PSOD on the Pacific Renewable Energy Program, which will benefit small Pacific islands.

Annual Meeting in Fiji

The Annual Meeting in Fiji marked the first time that ADB held an annual meeting in a Pacific developing member country (DMC). I appreciate the hard work of the Office of the Secretary, Office of Administrative Services, Office of Information Systems and Technology, Department of Communications, and others, to make the meeting a real success.

Through this meeting, we showcased the development gains taking place across the Pacific and discussed ADB’s work to support the unique challenges facing the region. We also launched the Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies.

Strategy 2030 implementation

2019 was the first full year of operationalizing Strategy 2030. I will mention some of the steps we have taken.

First, the Board approved our new corporate results framework in September. This framework provides the basis for measuring ADB’s performance against the strategic directions and operational priorities of Strategy 2030 for the next 6 years.

Second, the Board endorsed the operational plans for the seven priorities of Strategy 2030 in October. These plans will guide our operations and highlight new opportunities for integrated and innovative approaches to project design, knowledge work, and financing.

Third, we put in place new operational performance metrics that emphasize strategic alignments, including more focus on quality and collaboration between sovereign and nonsovereign operations. Key corporate targets have been cascaded down; they are reflected in the work plans of the departments, divisions, and staff, and constitute part of the staff performance review.

Fourth, ADB continued to strengthen its role as a knowledge provider. For instance, the Key Indicators marked the 50th edition and introduced a new database. We have hosted important forums with participants from the region and beyond, such as the Digital Development Forum, Asia Clean Energy Forum, and Rural Development and Food Security Forum.

The Independent Evaluation Department, Office of Anticorruption and Integrity, Office of the General Counsel, Office of Risk Management, the Procurement, Portfolio, and Financial Management Department, the Treasury Department, and other departments have also facilitated knowledge events to share their expertise.

More recently, we have shared a lot of knowledge with our peer multilateral development banks (MDBs). This year, in the context of G20 meetings in Japan, collaboration among MDBs provided valuable inputs on issues such as quality infrastructure and universal healthcare coverage. ADB Institute led Think20 (T20) to make policy recommendations to G20.

During the year, I attended meetings with all Sector and Thematic Groups and found these inspiring. I am encouraged by the staff efforts to incorporate new approaches and technologies and realize innovative outcomes, which will help deliver Strategy 2030.

Fifth, we continued to strengthen ADB’s financing toolkits to meet the differentiated needs of our DMCs. In August 2019, we formalized the contingent disaster financing mechanism as a financing option under ADB’s policy-based lending. The Board also approved the mainstreaming of results-based lending following a productive 6-year pilot period.

We introduced the project readiness financing and small expenditure financing last year. And the regional departments have started using these new financing modalities.  

Sixth, we accelerated information technology (IT) reforms. The widespread adoption of SharePoint has improved collaboration within and across departments, and reduced paper use.

Progress was made on improving cyber security and data governance. I wish to thank staff who worked hard in 2019 to progress two of the largest ongoing IT projects – the mainframe replacement project and the nonsovereign operations (NSO) IT project –both of which are due to be finished in 2020.

Seventh, the Board approved the proposal for differentiated pricing to diversify financing terms for regular ordinary capital resources (OCR) sovereign lending operations. It is reasonable and fair that upper middle income countries pay a bit higher interest rates. I appreciate many borrowing countries supported this proposal. It will offer additional revenues that will help increase our lending capacity over time.

Eighth, in November, we held the first replenishment meeting for Asian Development Fund (ADF) 13 and gained general support to the framework of the replenishment. ADF grants are critical for ADB to continue to assist the poorest and most vulnerable DMCs.

Strengthening ADF also supports the objective of the ADF and OCR merger, which is primarily meant to benefit the poorest countries.

For ADF 13, we have proposed to make more flexible use of concessional lending. We aim to provide targeted support—through a thematic pool of grant resources—in areas such as climate change adaptation, disaster risk resilience, and regional cooperation and integration, including regional health security. We also aim to enhance our focus on the transformative gender agenda.

III. Human resources management

I would like to turn now to the important area of human resources (HR) management. We have continued to modernize our HR practices throughout 2019.

First, our diversity and inclusion measures led ADB to be the first international financial institution to progress to the EDGE MOVE certification in March 2019.  The number of women international staff has continued to increase, reaching 36.6% at the end of September, up from 34% in 2016. Support for career opportunities of expatriate spouses continued. To date, 40% of participants have found work in the Philippines.

Second, a review of the Respectful Workplace Unit was conducted in 2019 and has resulted in the creation of the Office of Professional Conduct, separate from the Office of Anticorruption and Integrity. This Office will be operational in 2020.

Third, we further strengthened staff mobility and talent development. An institutional Talent Review was successfully implemented for levels International Staff (IS) 7 and IS8, with focus on mobility, especially for returning Country Directors and Deputy Country Directors. Talent reviews will continue for levels IS7 and IS8 and, will be extended to include level IS6 in 2020.

Rotations under the Mobility Program for levels IS4 and IS5 will take place in early 2020 with improved transparency. The Short-Term Assignment program has been well received by staff, with about 55 assignments in place in 2019. This has given staff new development opportunities while also helping to fill resource gaps.

Fourth, in support of the new performance management framework introduced last year, supervisors and staff have been provided with training through the GROW program. This GROW program helps supervisors give honest and constructive feedback and coaches staff to improve their performance. The 360-degree feedback initiative, started in 2017, also continues to be an important tool in improving leadership of managers.

Fifth, in terms of further strengthening our workforce, we continue to recruit new talent to ADB. Through 2019, we have welcomed 290 new staff. We must ensure that we provide sufficient guidance and training to new staff.

Sixth, leadership is needed at all levels. In 2019, we launched three revised leadership programs. Our leadership programs now include the Thrive Program for levels National Staff (NS) 5-6 and IS3-4; the Engage program for levels IS5-6; the Transform Program for levels IS7-8; and the Executive Leadership Program for levels IS9 and 10.

I met with participants of the Thrive and Engage programs  this year. One interesting question addressed to me was how I protect my personal life given my busy workload. My answer was to have focus on important tasks and to plan enjoyable personal events ahead of others, including work.

Another question I remember was what has been my experience of dealing with difficult supervisors. My answer was, of course, we must try to work hard, but at the same time, do not to take things as personal and not overreact. And, this is really important, to believe that memories of difficult supervisors often will be fun to recall with peers in the future.

IV. Conclusion

This is my last opportunity as the President of ADB to address you and recognize long-serving staff at the annual Staff Appreciation Event.

It is my great pleasure to celebrate those staff who have reached long-service milestones in 2019. Congratulations and thank you very much!

I also thank all of you at the headquarters and field offices for your hard work and contributions during this year.

And lastly, although I will still be around until 16 January, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude for your support and friendship to me for almost seven years of my term as President.

I wish you all a warm, relaxing, and happy holiday season with family and friends.

Thank you.