Special address by ADB President Takehiko Nakao at the 16th Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Ministerial Conference on 27 October 2017 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Your Excellency President Emomali Rahmon, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
I am honored to join you at this 16th annual conference of CAREC Ministers. I would like to thank the Government of Tajikistan for hosting this important conference. I extend my appreciation to the people of Tajikistan for their gracious hospitality. Rahmat! [“Thank you” in Tajik.]
I am pleased to see such high-level participation in this conference. I warmly welcome the presence of His Excellency President of Tajikistan, Mr. Emomali Rahmon. The President’s speech is full of important and concrete ideas and his opening of the conference reflects Tajikistan’s strong commitment to the CAREC Program.
I also welcome Ministers and delegates from CAREC countries and development partners. I recently met with several Ministers from CAREC countries in Urumqi where we had gathered to celebrate the CAREC Institute’s transition to an inter-governmental knowledge and research organization.
This is my first visit to Tajikistan and to this beautiful city of Dushanbe.
I understand that the name “Dushanbe” is derived from the Persian word for "Monday" (du two + shanbe day, meaning "day two") and refers to the fact that it was a popular Monday marketplace in history. Yesterday I visited the National Museum of Tajikistan and learned more about the rich history and culture of the country.
ADB and Tajikistan
ADB’s development partnership with Tajikistan began in 1998. Next year will mark 20 years of cooperation between ADB and Tajikistan.
We have approved a total amount of over $1.5 billion in concessional loans, grants, and technical assistance so far to support Tajikistan’s development. This assistance has supported projects and programs in the areas of agriculture, energy, transport and public sector management among others. Last year, ADB approved a policy-based loan of $50 million to help improve the investment climate.
We will maintain our strong support to Tajikistan in the years ahead, including in such areas as municipal infrastructure, skills development, and improvement in health services, aligned with Tajikistan’s own National Development Strategy 2030
Growth prospects in CAREC countries
CAREC countries were affected adversely by the global economic and financial crisis of 2007–2008, and then by the declining oil prices beginning in 2014. However, the economic outlook for CAREC countries has now brightened. Central Asian countries are profiting from stable oil prices, improving prospects in neighboring countries, and rising remittances.
We forecast economic growth in Central Asian countries except China to rise to 4.0% in 2017 and to 4.5% in 2018, from 3.1% in 2016. While improved, growth rates in the CAREC region are still modest and need to rise further to create more jobs and economic opportunities.
ADB and CAREC
We believe that regional cooperation is critical to securing Asia’s economic future. ADB’s founding members had the foresight to recognize this from the start. The first sentence of the ADB Charter itself refers to “the importance of closer economic cooperation.”
The idea of CAREC started with the recognition that the independent Central Asian republics shared a similar set of challenges. These included, state-building, a smooth transition to a market economy, regaining Central Asia connectivity which was interrupted by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the need to strengthen investment in infrastructure and social and human development.
ADB provided regional technical assistance in 1996 to foster regional economic cooperation in Central Asia. China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan were the first countries to form the CAREC Program in 1997.
CAREC’s membership has continued to expand. Tajikistan joined in 1998, Azerbaijan and Mongolia in 2003, Afghanistan in 2005, Pakistan and Turkmenistan in 2010, and Georgia in 2016. CAREC today has 11 member countries.
The CAREC Program has built a strong track record of promoting economic cooperation across its member countries. CAREC has financed 182 CAREC-related projects in member countries worth more than $30 billion in four core strategic sectors: transport, energy, trade facilitation, and trade policy. Of this, $10.5 billion has been financed by ADB, and the rest by other development partners and member countries.
As the CAREC Secretariat, ADB takes the lead in maintaining close coordination with member countries, and supports the organization of high-level CAREC institutional events.
CAREC 2030: Connecting the region for shared and sustainable development
Our conference today is of particular importance for CAREC’s long-term future. The milestone event of this conference is the Ministers’ consideration for endorsement of a new strategy for CAREC leading to 2030, “CAREC 2030”.
Besides senior government officials, think tanks, academia, the private sector, business associations, and development partners have played an active role in helping set the directions for this new CAREC strategy.
The new long-term strategy envisages scaling up and broadening CAREC’s mandate, including support for regional economic and financial stability, and regional initiatives in the areas of tourism, agriculture and water resources, and health and education. CAREC countries must aim at coordinating different legislations between countries to promote trade and investment within the region. At the same time, CAREC will maintain focus and its comparative advantage in the existing priority areas of transport, energy, trade, and economic corridors development.
CAREC will work closely with other regional cooperation initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative. We will seek to strengthen the role of international development partners to strengthen the CAREC platform. We are encouraged that the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is attending the Ministerial Conference for the first time.
CAREC 2030 is closely aligned with national development strategies. It also supports the Sustainable Development Goals and the COP21 climate agreement.
The new strategy includes some improvements in institutional framework. I expect the CAREC Institute, which was inaugurated in September this year as an intergovernmental organization, to support CAREC 2030 through capacity building, research, and knowledge sharing.
Finally, CAREC 2030 will seek to promote business-to-business and people-to-people contacts to create new spaces for entrepreneurship and employment generation and for deepening social and cultural ties across member countries.
ADB will commit $5 billion to support CAREC 2030 over the next 5 years. This is about a quarter of total ADB financing for projects in CAREC countries, except China. We have just approved a new $800 million Multi-Tranche Financing Facility for CAREC road corridor development in Pakistan. Next year, we will finance the first phase of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) transmission line project for $150 million. We have also already begun discussions for regional projects in the areas of agribusiness, tourism, and railways covered in CAREC 2030.
We seek the strong support of all member countries and development partners for the financing and successful implementation of the new CAREC 2030 strategy.
CAREC 2030 provides a historic opportunity to revitalize regional cooperation under CAREC. The Dushanbe Declaration, to be released at the end of this Conference, will be a testimony to our resolve to work closely together for the sustainable development of our region.
I am confident that as good neighbors and good partners, we can together secure the future of our region with even greater prospects.
I thank you all for your support. Salomat Boshed. [“Stay healthy” in Tajik.]