By M Naeem Chaudhry

YOKOHAMA (Japan), May 6 (APP): Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro
Aso Saturday said Japan was firmly committed to working hard for the development of Asia-Pacific region in close coordination with the
Asian Development Bank.
Taro Aso, in his address at the opening session of Annual Meeting of ADB Board of Governors here at National Convention Hall, said Japan, based on its strengths of expertise and experience in health and elderly care, would support Asian countries in addressing health-related challenges.
The ADP and JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), he said, had just agreed during the annual meeting on a framework to promote collaboration in that area.
The Asian region achieved remarkable economic development while on the other hand it was faced with various challenges such as rapid ageing, climate change and volatility in international capital flows, he added.
Referring to a range of difficulties such as food shortage, weak infrastructure, pandemics, natural disasters, and the currency crisis faced by the region, the deputy prime minister said the countries no doubt made great efforts in overcoming those problems and successfully built a dynamic region.
The Bank, as a family doctor in the region, had made a huge
contribution by working closely with those countries and providing appropriate assistance, Aso said, adding that the region’s
achievement in poverty reduction through economic growth was a proud success story of development in the world.
Over 300 million people, he said, still lived in poverty in the region and continued to face threats from natural disasters and pandemics. Moreover, economic development and globalization had brought about challenges.
To confront those challenges, he stressed, “We should follow two guiding principles of achieving inclusive and sustainable growth and strengthening resilience against various crises.
“We should focus on areas such as infrastructure development, strengthening of the health system, disaster risk management and regional financial cooperation. Infrastructure needs in Asia are getting larger both in terms of quantity and quality due to economic development,” he noted.
The Bank’s recent estimates pointed to huge infrastructure needs in development Asia amounting to 26 trillion dollars over the next 15 years. Against that backdrop, he expressed the hope that the Bank would continue to promote infrastructure development, and to further mobilize private sector financing.
He pointed out enhancing quality infrastructure in terms of
lifecycle cost, and environment and social considerations was important
and welcomed the Bank’s recent decision to introduce new procurement procedures with more emphasis on quality.
Japan, he said, had been providing quality infrastructure in Asia
in close collaboration with the Bank. To further strengthen that partnership, he announced that Japan would provide $40 million
over a two-year period to the newly created Bank’s trust fund to promote high level technologies and emphasized that it was critical to utilize infrastructure in an open, transparent and non-exclusive manner to enhance connectivity.
“This is important not only for humanitarian and social reasons, but also for economic reasons as health contributes to inclusive and sustainable growth,” he viewed.
Asia is frequently hit by pandemics such as bird flu, and also
because of rapid ageing is expected to create health challenges such as growing demand for elderly care. The Bank as a broad-cased development institution is encouraged to further strengthen its expertise on these social issues to make a meaningful contribution.
Japan achieved universal health coverage ahead of other countries and accumulated various expertise and experience on health and elderly care as it has entered into super-aging society.
Natural disasters as typhoons, flood and earthquakes occur frequently in Asia and the risk could intensify due to progress of climate change.
The Bank is encouraged to make further efforts to resolve climate change,
he said, hoping that it would bolster support to areas such post-disaster reconstruction and building of disaster-resilient societies.
With abundant knowledge and experience, Aso said Tokyo had been
actively promoting measures such as building disaster-resilient infrastructure. In addition, Japan would make further contribution by working towards the establishment of “South Asian Disaster Risk
Insurance” to facilitate swift mobilization of funding in case of natural disaster, he added.
He observed that the Asian economy was facing risks stemming from volatile international capital flows and the Bank was required to support structural reforms through policy dialogue and loans to beef up economic resilience of its members and it should also provide crisis response in collaboration with other international financial institutions.
“Japan as one co-chair of the ASEAN+3 financial cooperation process
has been promoting further enhancement of CMIM and our regional
safety net. Japan proposed a new type of Bilateral Swap Arrangements at the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting between ASEAN countries and Japan,” he added.
The Bank is currently preparing “Strategy 2030” its new long-term
policy and it is hoped that it will develop a strong strategy taking into consideration various discussions at the annual meeting.