Speech by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at the Seventh Greater Mekong Subregion Summit Virtual Meeting Hosted by Cambodia, 9 September 2021


Your Excellency Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia—it is an honor to participate in this 7th Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Summit. I note with appreciation that Your Excellency also hosted the very first GMS Summit in Cambodia, back in 2002.

Excellencies and friends:

Enshrined in the charter of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is the commitment to “foster regional cooperation.” The GMS Program embodies this commitment, and ADB has been very proud to support it for the past 30 years. 

GMS countries now face urgent challenges, including multiple waves of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The GMS Program recognizes the need for coordinated efforts on vaccinations, mobility, social assistance, and support for businesses. 

I would like to speak to you about the new strategic framework of the GMS Program, GMS-2030, which is being presented for your endorsement today. I believe GMS-2030 will enable us to meet the current challenges we face together, so that we can achieve its vision of “a more integrated, sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive GMS.” 

I. ADB support for the GMS 

Let me first take a step back to highlight ADB’s longstanding support to the GMS. 

Since its inception in 1992, the GMS Program mobilized $27.7 billion in financing for GMS projects. In coordination with development partners and GMS countries, the Program pioneered regional cooperation and fostered greater connectivity, with impressive results. The subregion is now one of the most dynamic in the global economy in gross domestic product growth, per capita income, foreign direct investment inflows, intra-regional trade, and tourist arrivals. 

During the current COVID-19 crisis, ADB quickly mobilized $50 million to support health security in the GMS. 

We also provided $2 billion in emergency budget support to GMS governments that requested assistance in the face of strained revenues. Our financing aims to support households, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, as they cope with the pandemic. It has also supported small and medium enterprises. 

Another key element of ADB’s pandemic response is our $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access (APVAX) Facility. APVAX supports the safe, effective, and equitable delivery of vaccines, in coordination with the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative and other partners. A new project in the GMS is currently being prepared for Cambodia under APVAX. 

II. The new GMS Strategic Framework

Let me turn now to the new GMS Strategic Framework, GMS-2030.

I believe we all agree that without strong cooperation among GMS countries, the region could experience a quick reversal of decades of successful development. This could undermine long-term sustainable economic growth and lead to increased poverty and inequality.

GMS-2030 lays out a comprehensive agenda for the next decade to deal collectively with these issues. A GMS COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan 2021–2023 will supplement GMS-2030. 

Let me highlight three areas where we should focus our efforts under GMS-2030:

  • First, we must promote inclusion by protecting lives and livelihoods in GMS countries. Strengthened health cooperation is critical, and it must include fair, speedy, and safe administration of COVID-19 vaccines, along with robust social protections for the poor and vulnerable. 
  • Second, we must ensure a green and sustainable recovery. We need to work together to:
    • promote green technologies;
    • strengthen climate resilience, disaster risk management, and other relevant capacities;
    • increase investment in climate-friendly, safe, and sustainable agricultural and food value chains; and
    • develop high-quality green transport and clean energy infrastructure.
  • Third, globalization will come back after this pandemic is over. We should further promote open regionalism—which will complement this renewed globalization—by facilitating flows along regional and global supply chains. This will require effective regional trade and investment facilitation, and open borders that allow for the safe and efficient movement of migrant labor. 


Let me close my remarks by affirming ADB’s full support for these efforts. 

In particular, we will:

  • provide strong, tailored financing aligned with GMS-2030; 
  • coordinate cofinancing from development partners and the private sector; and
  • prepare relevant knowledge and innovative knowledge solutions.

ADB will also continue to play a central role in coordinating the GMS Program. 

I thank Prime Minister Hun Sen once again for hosting this summit, and our GMS countries for your continued friendship and unwavering commitment to cooperation.