HA NOI, VIET NAM - Asia can lead the world to more balanced, equitable, and sustainable growth if it confronts its medium- and long-term challenges “with purpose and passion,” Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda told the opening session of the 44th ADB Annual Meeting today in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.
In an address entitled “Asia’s Future: Regional Challenges, Global Responsibilities,” Mr. Kuroda said that the Asia and Pacific region emerged swiftly from the global economic crisis and must now tackle the large, ongoing challenges of poverty, inequality, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation, and climate change.
While Asia’s economy has grown rapidly for several decades, Mr. Kuroda pointed out that “It is not just the quantity of growth that matters, but also the quality. Inclusive growth is essential – growth that provides more jobs and increases the quality of life for all our people. The region cannot prosper, nor achieve its aspirations, if the benefits of growth are not widely shared.”
Mr. Kuroda said five key issues are vital to unlocking the region’s potential.
“First and foremost is strong leadership and commitment to good governance. Many countries in developing Asia consistently rank low in measures of good governance – this must change to promote quality growth. We need to empower the poor and ensure the fairness of institutions and the dignity of citizens.”
Other key elements are filling infrastructure investment requirements exceeding $750 billion annually to 2020; sound financial systems to channel regional savings into Asia’s development needs; wider sharing of development knowledge within and beyond the region; and increased regional cooperation and integration.
The President highlighted the need to make financial systems more accessible to the poor. “This will help families to take advantage of economic opportunities, manage financial shocks, and attend to their health and education needs. It will enable micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises to fulfill their potential in creating jobs,” he said.
Mr. Kuroda also said that Asia can learn from and share experiences with other developing regions, such as Latin America, noting stronger inter-regional “south-south cooperation” would enhance Asia’s growth and contribute to global economic stability. Further, sustained growth must be anchored with investment in innovation and technology, and promotion of entrepreneurship. And increased cooperation and deeper economic integration will help Asia to improve its economic resilience and respond effectively to global challenges such as rising commodity prices and looming water, food, and energy shortages.
In addition to tackling national and regional challenges, Mr. Kuroda called on the Asia and Pacific region to assume greater global responsibilities in dealing with issues such as climate change and economic rebalancing.
He suggested that Asia can chart the course toward sustainable growth by adopting a new “green growth” paradigm that fosters environmental stewardship as a cornerstone of innovation and growth.
With a growing middle class, Asia is well positioned to lead the unwinding of global imbalances by expanding its own markets to become a source of global demand. “We need to start thinking beyond “factory Asia” and find our place as “consumer Asia” as well,” he said.
Finally, by strengthening its own financial systems, Asia can also show leadership in building a new global financial architecture and governance structure. Mr. Kuroda reiterated his proposal for an Asian Financial Stability Dialogue at the regional level, saying that “Without collective efforts to secure the stability of the system, the stability of an individual economy cannot be guaranteed.”
“Asia must show leadership on critical global issues and the provision of global public goods. Working together for the greater good is not always easy, and sometimes requires the sacrifice of individual benefits. But it is absolutely necessary. Never in the history of humankind have we been able to connect regionally and globally as we can today. We must take advantage of this unique opportunity to act on our shared challenges,” he said.