Welcome Remarks at the Coffee Table Book Launch - Wencai Zhang | Asian Development Bank

Welcome Remarks at the Coffee Table Book Launch - Wencai Zhang

Speech | 23 November 2017

Welcome remarks by ADB Vice-President Wencai Zhang at the coffee table book launch on 22 November 2017 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister of Finance
Hon. Dr. Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister National Policies and Economic Affairs
Mr. R. Paskaralingam, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister
Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga, Secretary to the Treasury,
Distinguished guests,
ADB staff from the Sri Lanka Resident Mission,
Former ADB colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Good evening and welcome to this special occasion marking ADB’s 50th anniversary as well as half a century of ADB’s enduring development partnership with Sri Lanka. It is my pleasure to be here to reflect on our past five decades of partnership, and also get a chance to meet all of you—our development partners in Sri Lanka. Thank you very much for joining us in celebrating this milestone.

As part of our celebrations today, we are launching a publication titled “Sri Lanka-ADB Partnership: 1966–2016.” This coffee table book shows in words and pictures selected ADB funded projects from over the past five decades. As you browse through the pages, you will notice how ADB’s assistance has evolved over time to become what it is today.

Not many of you may know, but Sri Lankans had a role to play in establishing the Asian Development Bank. Well before 1966, many countries provided backing for the idea to establish a regional development bank for Asia. In 1959 Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandranaike suggested that an international meeting might be held in Colombo to discuss, among other things, the possibility of establishing a development bank for the region.  Later, in 1962, a Ceylonese Banker, C. Loganathan, was asked to contribute a paper to an Asian Bankers’ Seminar. He chose to prepare a paper on Regional Economic Cooperation in Asia: A Case for a Development Bank for United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) Countries.

So undoubtedly, Sri Lankans were among those who played a pivotal role in the idea to establish the Asian Development Bank.

When the Asian Development Bank was established in 1966, Asia was a region still defined by poverty, insecurity, and uncertainty. Half a century later, the changes are remarkable. Growth and poverty reduction in Asia have exceeded the most optimistic forecasts. Beginning in the 1970s and continuing on into the new century, a strong tide of economic growth lifted living standards across the region. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, the Green Revolution and export-oriented industrialization supported development in many countries.

Today, people are healthier and better educated. They have access to information and jobs. Their countries are better connected to their neighbors, and the standard of living is higher. With the current pace of growth in Asia, the region may account for half of global GDP by 2050.

What drives development and growth in Asia? Apart from other factors, the region’s success is built on strong partnerships among stakeholders. All development activities require partnerships. Partnerships with governments, civil society and private sector are key for regional cooperation as well as for national planning to building infrastructure, human capital, and implementing policies.

ADB’s founding charter places cooperation at the core of the institution. We have been working closely with our member country governments and other stakeholders to promote the spirit of cooperation for all–round development and prosperity.

In Sri Lanka, since the first loan in 1968 for the modernization of Tea Factories, ADB staff have consulted, cooperated, and worked in partnership with the Sri Lanka government to improve the lives of Sri Lankans. Be it adding extra megawatts to the national grid, helping rural households to receive electricity and connectivity, deepening of the Colombo port to enable larger vessels to dock, or funding the first ever expressway in Sri Lanka – ADB has listened and worked in partnership to respond to the needs of the country.

Through this partnership we have mobilized and invested $8.9 billion (as at the end of October 2017) in infrastructure, human capital development, agriculture and finance sector, research, analysis, and knowledge sharing to expand opportunities and  build prosperity across this country.

We have responded to the government’s needs in conflict areas even during the civil conflict to support the lives of people. The North East Community Restoration and Development Project approved by our Board in 2001 was the first in a series of assistance to the conflict affected areas of Sri Lanka. 

After the Asian Tsunami in 2004, we provided an emergency loan, the Tsunami-Affected Areas Rebuilding Project, to address the urgent needs of the people. This project rapidly improved the living standards and well-being of a substantial number in tsunami-affected areas by restoring basic social infrastructure, community and public services, and livelihoods.

The ever strengthening Sri Lanka–ADB partnership is a matter of great satisfaction and pride for us. I would like to express our gratitude to the Government of Sri Lanka for its continuous encouragement and guidance over the years, which has helped ADB improve the development results of its assistance program. We also wish to acknowledge the support we receive from the diplomatic community, development partners, private sector, academia, and think-tanks, civil society organisations, and media in Sri Lanka.

As we look forward at implementing our new Country Partnership Strategy we trust that it will contribute to taking Sri Lanka on its journey toward becoming a high-income country.

On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, I thank the Government of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans for accepting us as a reliable and welcome partner. We are proud of our 50-year partnership with Sri Lanka and look forward to many more years of a productive and an effective collaboration.

Thank you once again for making time to be here and participating in our 50th anniversary celebrations.

Have an enjoyable evening.

Isthuthi (Thank you in Sinhala)

Nandri (Thank you in Tamil)

Thank you.