Opening remarks by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at the First High-Level Regional Tax Conference for the Asia and Pacific Region, 24 November 2021


Distinguished guests, panelists, colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen:

Welcome to the first High-Level Regional Tax Conference for Asia and the Pacific, organized by the Asia Pacific Tax Hub.

I would like to begin by thanking my colleague, Xiaohong, for the introduction and for inaugurating this important conference; Dr. Gaspar, Dr. Gill, and Mr. Saint-Amans for their upcoming opening remarks; and our member countries, regional tax associations, and development partners for their valuable participation and ongoing collaboration to meet the challenges facing our region.

My friends, let me emphasize two crucial points:

First, we all have a duty to future generations to ensure that they are not left with unsustainable debt burdens, societies torn apart by inequality, and a planet ravaged by climate change.

And second, as we emerge from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, domestic resource mobilization (DRM) and international tax cooperation (ITC) hold the key to a green, inclusive, and resilient recovery.

Allow me to provide a roadmap for how the Tax Hub can support our efforts to meet these momentous challenges together.

I. ADB leadership in establishing the Asia Pacific Tax Hub

As you know well, countries in developing Asia need substantial and predictable revenue streams to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including greater climate change ambitions across countries, expanded health coverage, and more effective social protection. 

The Asia Pacific Tax Hub aims to help our developing member countries (DMCs) to more effectively mobilize domestic resources, so that they can address these needs.

Since its launch in May, the Tax Hub has conducted extensive bilateral consultations with 41 of our DMCs, our development partners, and non-borrowing members. It also gathered insights through surveys on DMC country priorities and future Tax Hub activities.

Many of our members have repeatedly affirmed their support for the Tax Hub, stressing the need for a region-wide forum to exchange views and learn from the reform experience of other countries.

By working together through the Tax Hub, I would like to see tangible developments to share experiences and best practices that can ensure stronger and more coordinated implementation of tax reform in the region. This will lead to higher revenues and social spending, which are badly needed in our DMCs.

II. Tax Hub and conference objectives

Let me highlight briefly how the Tax Hub will take those important next steps.

At this high-level conference, I look forward to collaboration that leads to a key role for the Tax Hub in driving the taxation agenda in Asia and the Pacific. The Hub will do this by serving as an inclusive platform for all stakeholders to:

  • conduct strategic dialogue;
  • strengthen development cooperation; and
  • coordinate DRM and ITC initiatives across the region.

The conference will create shared knowledge that promotes DRM and helps to identify priority areas going forward.

In particular, I encourage governments to commit to working with the Tax Hub to address the challenges they face as they support their medium-term development. The exchange of ideas and country experiences with both tax reform and managing fiscal space during the pandemic will be a vital input. This shared knowledge can inform the strategies of fellow members to support a green, inclusive, and resilient recovery over the next 3 to 4 years.

In the next session, we will announce the Foundational Steering Committee of the Tax Hub, whose mandate is to chart out the future course of the Hub in the most inclusive way possible, in collaboration with the regional departments.

The steering committee will manage the Tax Hub, with the assistance of a lean and versatile secretariat. The committee will be comprised of representatives from DMCs, donors—including the Asian Development Bank (ADB)—non-borrowing members, and regional tax associations. The foundational steering committee will also deliberate on and propose the governance structure of the Tax Hub and all future steering committees.

III. Closing

Let me close by emphasizing once again that we must act now to mobilize domestic resources that expand fiscal space, maintain intergenerational equity, and meet the development challenges of our times, including recovery from the pandemic and climate change.

The Asia Pacific Tax Hub and ADB stand ready to work side by side with you in this endeavor.

I wish you a successful dialogue over the next 2 days.

Thank you.