Remarks by Hong Nam-Ki, Chair, ADB Board of Governors, at the Governors’ Second Business Session, 18 September 2020
Distinguished fellow Governors, Representatives of Members,
President Asakawa, ladies and gentlemen,
Contrary to our hopes, COVID-19 is still with us.
I would like to sincerely thank President Asakawa and the ADB staff for your active role in fighting COVID-19 in the Asia-Pacific region.
We are currently in the middle of three unprecedented crises – a pandemic, an economic downturn, and changes in economic and social structures.
Since none of these crises can be solved by one individual member, we all need to stand in solidarity.
I will now highlight three priorities.
First, improving our ability to counter public health crises and building resilience.
COVID-19 has not abated, and a second wave may also break out. Some even warn about a ‘twindemic’ risk. This will overload medical systems and devastate the economies and societies of our region.
Boosting economic growth depends on effective quarantines. It is crucial to meet the pressing healthcare and economic needs of Developing Member Countries (DMCs) in a timely manner. We will share the lessons learned and focus on building public health capacity in DMCs. Policies to encourage social distancing will be another primary point.
Measures to build resilience against future pandemics are imperative. We will need to adopt innovative systems such as the Medical Supply Stockpile. This facility can stock necessary equipment and medications when supply is stable and provide them to DMCs in the early stage of a pandemic.
Second, promoting inclusiveness through prompt and efficient fiscal policy.
Extreme restrictions have had dire consequences, including employment shocks and severe economic recessions. Under these circumstances, the role of public finance is critical for safeguarding jobs, supporting demand, and protecting vulnerable groups. At the same time, fiscal policies must be effective for ensuring the delivery of stimulus packages.
In this context, we support the overarching role that the ADB plays in financial support, capacity building, and the adjustment of expenditure priorities. In conjunction with these efforts, I believe that the ADB must also consider debt vulnerability that constrains fiscal space.
In particular, financial and policy support will be significant for DMCs in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations (FCAS) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), since these crises are particularly painful for them.
Third, transitioning to a digital and green economy.
COVID-19 is accelerating the pace of switching to a digital economy. On top of that, the recognition of the need to address climate change is speeding up the pace of the shift to a green economy.
We will spare no effort to create jobs and jumpstart the economy even as we continue to focus on the urgent issues of healthcare and economic repression.
To this end, the ADB will serve as a knowledge disseminator. We expect the ADB to facilitate such transitions by building capacity, designing tailored projects and enhancing educational infrastructure, while taking the situations of each member into account.
I look forward to meeting all of you in Georgia in person once we prevail over the current pandemic and economic crisis. I am also grateful to everyone for supporting Korea as we prepare to host the 56th ADB Annual Meeting in 2023.
Finally, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to everyone who has suffered from health problems and economic difficulties. Let me conclude by wishing you all good health and safety.