Nadi (Fiji), May 3
The annual meeting of the board of governors of the Asian Development Bank started today in the Fijian city of Nadi with calls for structural reforms and higher investment in human capital and infrastructure amid uncertainty over economic outlook in Asia and the Pacific. The Asia and the Pacific is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Economic growth in the region is expected to stand at 6.2 per cent this year, as per ADB, the Manila-based multilateral lending institution.
“While economic growth in the region remains solid, there is much discussion about a slowdown and uncertainties in the global economy,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao told the opening session of ADB’s 52nd Annual Board of Governors’ Meeting.
These fears mainly stem from the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China.
“If tensions escalate, they could seriously undermine consumer and investor confidence and weaken growth in the region,” Nakao said, urging countries in the region to ‘continue to pursue prudent macroeconomic policies, implement structural reforms, and invest in human capital and infrastructure’.
ADB’s annual meeting provides a platform to government officials, academics, business leaders and civil society representatives to discuss a host of economic and social issues in the region. It is currently being attended by over 2,000 participants, including finance ministers of 68 ADB member countries. Nepal’s Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada is also here to attend the meeting. He is accompanied by Shreekrishna Nepal, head of the International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division of the Ministry of Finance.
Khatiwada today met with ADB President Nakao, where he discussed issues ranging from Nepal’s plan to graduate to middle-income country, and financing gap in Nepal’s infrastructure and social sectors to ADB’s plan to float local currency bonds.
“The president said the ADB is happy with the improvement made by Nepal in terms of utilisation of (funds) provided by the bank and has pledged to provide adequate financial resources if the country is able to enhance its fund absorptive capacity,” the finance minister told The Himalayan Times.
This year’s annual meeting of ADB is primarily focused in two areas: Ocean health and sustainable tourism. The ADB yesterday launched a $5-billion action plan to improve ocean health and promote marine economy in Asia and the Pacific. Today, the multilateral lender said the ADB would promote regional cooperation for tourism so that Asian countries can take advantage of their beautiful landscapes, rich cultures and histories, and warm hospitality.
“Tourism is important for job creation due to labour-intensive nature of its services. As robotics and artificial intelligence become more common, there will be a natural desire for more human interactions and seeing real things,” said ADB President Nakao. “We can make tourism more human and inclusive by investing in the right skill sets of people. We must also pursue sustainable tourism by protecting nature, environment, cultural heritage and local communities. Otherwise, cities, beaches, and forests lose their attraction.”
A version of this article appears in print on May 04, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.