Remarks by Lasha Khutsishvili, Chair, ADB Board of Governors, at the Governors’ Business Session, at the 54th Annual Meeting, 5 May 2021
Esteemed President Masatsugu Asakawa,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to be here today, presenting my country and participating in the 54th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As you may well be aware, it was originally planned to be held in Tbilisi – a perfect destination for engaging meetings, conferences and informative events that would let everyone learn more about Georgia, the progress country has made inter alia towards greater cooperation with the ADB and none the least brilliant opportunity for us to demonstrate our trademark hospitality.
Despite a missed opportunity, we remain strongly committed to holding an outstanding and memorable Annual Meeting in Georgia any time soon. In order to prove this, I believe we will have another opportunity in 2024. I look forward to meeting all of you in Georgia in person and hope by that time we will succeed in curbing the global pandemic and economic crisis.
Meanwhile, we are having a virtual meeting. I am grateful to the dedicated team of the ADB for organizing the Annual Meeting in these very difficult circumstances. Such virtual meetings still give us a very good opportunity of discussing important aspects of development cooperation and the vital role of the ADB in this challenging environment.
It has been more than a year since the dawn of COVID-19. The global pandemic has claimed millions of lives and caused suffering to many more. Unprecedented challenges of this period made economies severely hit, thereby effecting living standards of people everywhere around the world.
ADB was on the frontline of the fight against the novel coronavirus and continues to do so. In this regard it is important to highlight a comprehensive and 20 billion USD-worth of COVID-19 Response Package to member states, which was designed by the Bank to help them in meeting emergency needs, provision of short-term economic stimulus and delivering a longer-term assistance for sustainable recovery. The support was vital in assisting the countries of operation in maintaining the macroeconomic stability, minimizing the economic damage and preserving the jobs.
Now we are at a stage when vaccines are invented and humanity can claim to be in the position of defeating an invisible enemy. Irrespective of this success, we still see significant deficiencies in combating the virus on the ground, especially in terms of vaccine supplies. To assist countries in addressing the gap, I see a clear role of the ADB, especially by helping countries in getting access to the vaccine, which I am sure ADB will deal with an outright success.
Collaboration for Resilient and Green Recovery is a theme of the Annual Meeting this year.
ADB should be proud of showcasing itself throughout the history of its existence as an institution that is truly responsive to the development needs of its member states. More than half a century has passed since the Bank’s first Annual Meeting. Over this period, we have seen significant changes in the region: progress has been absolutely remarkable and role of the ADB has been decisive in it. ADB’s commitment for achieving a prosperous, inclusive and resilient Asia and the Pacific has been manifesting in very tangible results.
These results boost our expectations that the Bank’s strong support will be translated into an efficient assistance of the countries in navigating throughout the post-pandemic period.
World economy in the post-COVID era will not be the same as the one before. Wounds of the global challenge will still be felt in coming years. Collective and coordinated efforts will be needed to treat them and to strengthen the grounds for economic recovery. What should be the policy implications at national and global levels? What should we focus on as an International Financial Institution?
I would like to highlight some areas where the Bank should zoom-in and decisive actions be taken to achieve these goals:
- First of all, we need to continue and even increase our focus on economic and structural reforms. These reforms are aimed at strengthening the fundamentals of our economies and facilitating the resilience to shocks.
- We need to maintain the policies on promoting regional cooperation and integration. The future of our world is in building bridges. Georgia is a great supporter of free trade policies and will continue to do so. It is very important to help countries investing in cross-border connectivity. Higher Integration, greater openness and lower barriers are key to the world economic architecture and we should continue relying on them.
- Let me emphasize the ADB’s role in private sector development. We should strengthen the role of the private sector as it is indeed an engine of economic recovery. And the role of ADB will be vital here as well. With private sector players being badly hit by the pandemic, conventional support mechanisms might not be sufficient. I think new support instruments, including the revised risk-appetite of our institution in favor of the private sector, is the topic that we should be discussing next.
- Last, but certainly not least, we should strengthen our focus on human capital. Top 4 countries in Human Capital Index (HCI) are from the region. Although we have some member states, like Georgia, that lag behind. By assisting the countries in reforming their healthcare and education systems ADB has accumulated a profound expertise and huge potential, which should be our long-term continuous focus.
We are confident that the Bank will be a leading institution in advancing the common agenda of efficient economic recovery in the post-pandemic period.
Finally, I want to once again use this opportunity to express my gratitude to ADB member states and their representatives who are virtually present today and to the Bank Management, hereby craving for the expansion and augmentation of our cooperation.
Let me conclude by wishing good health and safety to all during this challenging time.