2021 Asian Development Fund 13 Donors’ Consultation Meeting - Masatsugu Asakawa

Speech | 28 April 2021

Opening remarks by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at the 2021 Asian Development Fund 13 Donors’ consultation meeting, 28 April 2021

ADF deputies and delegates, representatives from ADB concessional assistance recipient countries, Board members, observers, ladies and gentlemen. It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the first annual ADF 13 donors consultation meeting.

Asia and the Pacific has seen much progress over the last decade. However, so many development gains have already been lost, especially in low-income countries, small island developing states (SIDS), and fragile and conflict affected situations (FCAS) due to devastating effects of the prolonged pandemic, as well as structural vulnerabilities.

Under such challenging circumstances, the successful replenishment of the ADF 13 and the TASF 7 brought a ray of hope to countries without access to capital markets for mobilizing necessary financial resources to overcome the crisis. I thank you again for your strong support, especially because donors have also been suffering from the pandemic. With grant resources made available through ADF 13, eligible countries will receive critical support to meet challenges that have been amplified by the pandemic. TASF 7 also offers a source of critical assistance for better implementation of projects, knowledge services, and capacity building in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. 

The ADF 13 grant allocation framework that we agreed last year has six strategic areas: namely (i) providing strong support to FCAS and SIDS, (ii) achieving the SDG5 transformative gender agenda, (iii) addressing climate change and supporting disaster resilience, (iv) fostering regional cooperation and integration and providing regional public goods, (v) supporting private sector operations in frontier economies and (vi) enhancing debt sustainability. Additionally, ADF 13 will support high quality infrastructure in line with the G20’s principles and build stronger governance in recipient countries as cross-cutting themes. I believe this framework of six strategic areas will enable ADB to respond to this crisis flexibly and build the foundation for a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery in concessional assistance countries.

ADF 13 provides much needed and robust grant resources for countries at high or moderate risk of debt distress through country allocations, while the ADF 13 Thematic Pool will unlock key projects in all concessional assistance countries, in line with Strategy 2030. The Private Sector Window will promote investments from the private sector in frontier markets and the Disaster and Pandemic Response Facility will provide additional grants in case of severe disasters triggered by natural hazards, humanitarian emergencies, and health emergencies.

ADB’s response to the COVID-19 crisis in concessional assistance countries has already been substantial—amounting to $2 billion in ADF grants and concessional lending.

For example, the third phase of the Pacific Disaster Resilience Program, approved in November 2020, will provide a total of $54 million policy-based grants to 8 SIDS. This program is critical to support actions on disaster risk management, and prepare for COVID-19 pandemic response, and address its economic impacts. Other examples are the COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support Programs for Afghanistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Maldives, Samoa, Solomon islands, Tajikistan, and Vanuatu among others that will help mitigate adverse impacts of COVID-19 on the population’s health, incomes, and economic opportunities as well as promoting macroeconomic stability.

Our support also ensures access to safe and effective vaccines and deliver them in a swift and equitable manner, under ADB's $9 billion vaccine initiative, the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility, or APVAX, that we announced in December last year. The one in Afghanistan was approved on 20 April followed by another project for the Pacific on 23 April. ADB will continue to support concessional assistance countries during the next four years, help them expand access to vaccines and gradually counter the long-lasting negative effects of the pandemic on growth and development.

Let me also highlight that ADF 13 puts a high emphasis on debt sustainability. This agenda is critical as the pandemic has exacerbated the risks associated with a decade of debt accumulation. ADB has identified policy actions that concessional assistance countries will have to put in place in 2021 as part of the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Finance Policy through close collaboration with IDA and the IMF.

Let me close my remarks by emphasizing that assistance through grant and concessional lending must remain robust over the next decade to reverse rising poverty, inequality, including the gender gap, and unemployment. The pandemic has also exposed shortcomings in health systems that need to be strengthened to deal with future shocks. Entire cohorts of youth and children are having their education disrupted. As such, there is much still to be done and ADF grants and concessional lending can play a crucial role.

ADF and TASF will be critical as ADB supports a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery from COVID-19. With this in mind, today’s meeting will commence a strategic discussion on charting a future for ADF and concessional lending, as agreed during the replenishment of ADF 13.

Through this important discussion, I look forward to initial feedback from donors to help us develop a work program.

I will now turn the meeting over to our chair, Vice-President Ahmed Saeed, who will continue the discussions with you together with members of my management team present here today.

Thank you very much for your attention.