MANILA, Philippines - Amid tight security and sweltering heat, the 45th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Board of Governors opened at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila, Wednesday.
ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda opened the meeting with optimism, saying the Asia-Pacific region is expected to maintain its growth momentum this year. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow by 6.9% this year, and 7.3% in 2013.
In a press conference, Kuroda said Asia's economies will be resilient and will not be hurt by the euro zone crisis. He emphasized that the "worst of the euro zone crisis is over."
Now, Asia has to make sure that the growth trickles down to the poorest and address rising inequality.
"High among these is the issue of rising inequality. Unfortunately, while the region has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty, the benefits of growth have yet to reach several hundreds of millions of Asians who continue to struggle on less than $1.25 a day. The very drivers of Asia’s economic success – new technology, globalization and market-oriented reforms – have also served to create and increase disparities within and among Asian economies," Kuroda said.
The ADB annual meeting is also focusing on inclusive growth, as seen with the overall theme “inclusive growth through better governance and partnerships".
Kuroda said Asian governments should enact policies that would make growth more inclusive. He suggested investments in education to reduce inequality in human capital and in infrastructure to reduce unequal access to services and opportunities.
Meanwhile, Kuroda announced the bank has secured a replenishment of Special Drawing Rights 7.9 billion ($12.4 billion) for the Asian Development Fund (ADF), a concessional window for Asia's poorest countries.
"ADF borrowers face significant development challenges, and have fewer resources of their own to address them. We particularly appreciate the strong support and generosity of our donor countries in view of the difficult challenges many are facing at home themselves," Kuroda said.
Donors also agreed to create a pilot Disaster Response Facility under ADF, which would support poor countries' response to natural disasters.
The ADF is expected to fund badly needed economic and social infrastructure improvements. In the next 4 years, almost 16,000 kilometers of road are expected to be upgraded, while more than 2.5 million students will benefit from school improvement programs.
This year's ADB meeting in Manila is already shaping up to be the biggest with over 4,000 registered participants, including more than 380 from the media. - With report from Lois Calderon, ABS-CBN News Channel