Opening Remarks at UNESCAP-ICCB Asia-Pacific Business Forum - Wencai Zhang

Speech | 10 February 2017

Statement by ADB Vice-President Wencai Zhang at the UNESCAP-ICCB Asia-Pacific Business Forum on Regional Integration to Achieve Sustainable Development on 8-9 February, 2017 in Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Hon'ble Ministers, and Advisor to Prime Minister

Respected Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Senior officials from the United Nations and International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh

Distinguished officials, participants, ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to congratulate the Ministry of Commerce of the Government of Bangladesh; UNESCAP; and the International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh for organizing this very timely Asia-Pacific Business Forum. We all know that public funding has been far shorter than demand in many developing countries, and that providing public services is far more costly than in advanced economies. I am delighted to share with you how the Asian Development Bank is committed to harnessing the strengths and potential of the private sector - as an engine of jobs, technology, innovation and finance - and in achieving successful global outcomes for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For fifty years, ADB has been working with our developing member countries to develop physical and social infrastructure, and strengthen policy and regulatory frameworks, which create business-friendly environments where the private sector can take hold and flourish. Indeed, the private sector is the main driving force for investment, economic activity, and growth. Today, ADB seeks to help promote socially responsible business practices, which enable the private sector to fully invest in and support the multifaceted global SDG agenda.

"Closer cooperation among private sectors across countries is also key to sustainable use of natural resources, such as water, mineral and forest resources, and for maintaining a cleaner environment."

Asia’s economic growth of recent years has been driven primarily by individual economies. But now is the time to focus on the huge potential benefits to be gained from the private sector doing business more effectively across borders, and across all of Asia and the Pacific. In this way, the private sector of each country can play a major role in fostering closer regional integration, cooperating with one another to harness complementarities, pool resources, and help expand markets and opportunities. Regionally-connected private sectors will bring enhanced economic prosperity, as well as strengthen inter-governmental regional integration efforts.

To forge closer regional cooperation, large investments in infrastructure are needed—roads, bridges, railways, ports, power supply, and industrial corridors—within each country and across borders. These, however, cannot be realized through government efforts alone. Resources from the private sector should be mobilized to help make these investments a reality. This will not only help expand businesses and generate jobs, but will also create growth opportunities. In this regard, ADB will continue to help enhance the region and subregion’s market environment, so that private-sector partners can thrive and expand opportunities for all.

The private sector will not only bring in the financing, but also advanced technologies. For example, smart infrastructure could be developed—to ensure that public infrastructure withstand major environmental shocks, preventing waste and generating savings. Investments in renewable energy should be an area of focus, and will benefit from private sector engagement. Closer cooperation among private sectors across countries is also key to sustainable use of natural resources, such as water, mineral and forest resources, and for maintaining a cleaner environment.

"ADB is paving the way forward for a new dimension of economic corridor development, leveraging trade and transport networks, and helping economies integrate into regional and global value chains, and production networks."

Over the next 10 years, ADB will expand its private sector operations for stronger development impact and wider geographic reach. We will deploy more funds for the private sector investment through co-financing, equity fund arrangements, innovative credit guarantees and enhancements, and risk transfer mechanisms. ADB will collaborate with private companies that bring innovation in transport technology, renewable energy, and telecommunications. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are evolving into different areas.

ADB is paving the way forward for a new dimension of economic corridor development, leveraging trade and transport networks, and helping economies integrate into regional and global value chains, and production networks. Effective economic corridors can also enhance truly inclusive growth by bringing lagging regions in the growth process.

ADB firmly believes that the private sector will play a vital role in achieving the SDGs, by bringing together Asian economies in the coming decades, and opening up more opportunities for business and partnerships that will help sustain economic growth and allow social development to flourish. ADB is committed to redoubling its efforts to harness the potential benefits that positive partnerships with the private sector can bring in order to help achieve the SDGs by 2030.

As ADB President Takehiko Nakao aptly said during the Addis Ababa Summit, “this is a critical time for governments, the private sector, and Multilateral Development Banks to come together to tackle the fundamental development challenges of our time.” We have the targets in front of us. Let’s just do it!

Thank you, and I wish the Forum a great success.