Keynote address by Masatsugu Asakawa, ADB President, at the 20th Ministerial Conference of Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation, 17 November 2021
Your Excellency Mikayil Jabbarov, Minister of Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan; CAREC Ministers and delegates; development partners, and distinguished guests:
Welcome to the 20th Ministerial Conference of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program. I extend my warm appreciation to the Government of Azerbaijan for hosting this year’s conference.
I am encouraged by your continued strong commitment to promote regional cooperation in the CAREC region, as today is the 20th time that Ministers gather to discuss regional issues of common interest. The theme of our conference, “Connectivity, Cooperation, and Resilience in a Digital Era,” is a timely and important one.
As we transition from the pandemic to a new normal marked by renewed globalization, we need to work together to strengthen regional cooperation including through digitalization. This will allow us to build resilience to future crises; restore trade; and emerge stronger, more connected, and more inclusive.
Let me discuss briefly how the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting our developing member countries as they emerge from the pandemic and build for a lasting recovery.
I. ADB’s support for CAREC through the COVID-19 pandemic and the path to recovery
First, through our $20 billion COVID-19 assistance package, we are providing immediate budget support for countercyclical expenditure programs, grants for medical equipment and supplies, and direct support to private businesses. Over $5 billion of this assistance has been directed to CAREC countries.
And, through our $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility, or APVAX, we are supporting rapid and equitable access to vaccines, especially for poor and vulnerable populations. To date, over $600 million in APVAX support has been directed to CAREC countries.
Second, the CAREC program, which ADB has been proud to support for the past 20 years, will be key to building for recovery across the region.
Since 2001, CAREC-related financing amounted to $40 billion for 213 regional projects. Of this, $15 billion has come from ADB; $16 billion from other development partners; and $9 billion from CAREC governments.
II. Building resilience through the CAREC program
Let me highlight two CAREC initiatives, which will be considered by the Ministers today and will be crucial for a resilient future.
The first is the CAREC Health Strategy 2030, which will be key to achieving health security among CAREC countries.
We have seen that public health threats such as infectious disease outbreaks can quickly cross borders and become a global concern. The Health Strategy 2030 addresses this concern through:
- A roadmap for coordinated responses to public health challenges;
- Strengthened health governance, regional surveillance, and laboratory networks; and
- Enhanced cross-border movement of medical supplies and access to health services, particularly for vulnerable groups such as migrants and border communities.
The second important initiative is the CAREC Digital Strategy 2030, which will strengthen digital connectivity.
Digitalization can help to accelerate COVID-19 recovery and promote resilience in areas such as healthcare and education, agriculture, finance, trade, and tourism. The Digital Strategy 2030 will support this through improved policy coordination and regional digital solutions that address the region’s socioeconomic challenges.
Key areas for digital development include core broadband and telecom infrastructure, e-commerce, automated border inspections, mobile banking systems that are compatible, telemedicine, and online education.
In addition to these initiatives, I am pleased to note that the first Development Effectiveness Review of the CAREC 2030 strategy concludes that the Program is on track to achieve its goals. Going forward, we must continue our efforts to make the Program more results-oriented, to reflect and learn from our past performance, and to jointly develop actions to respond efficiently to the emerging needs and priorities of developing member countries.
Let me conclude by affirming my belief in the tremendous potential for regional cooperation to ensure a strong and resilient future for our members in the CAREC region. I look forward to continuing our successful work together.