44th Annual Meeting
Board of Governors
Asian Development Bank
6 May 2011
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I would like to start by conveying to Japan's representatives Australia's profound sorrow for the immense loss of life that Japan recently suffered. Australia remains ready to provide further assistance and we pay particular tribute to the remarkable strength shown by the Japanese people in this difficult time.
Chairperson, Governors, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Government of Australia, I would like to thank the Government of Vietnam for hosting this, the 44th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank. Our delegation would also like to put on record our appreciation for the workers, staff and citizens of Hanoi for their help with this event.
It is very pleasing to see continued strong growth among a number of countries in the Asia Pacific region. Their experience provides an example, and indeed an opportunity, for other countries in the region to transition onto the path of sustainable poverty reduction. Australia is enthusiastic about the rise of Asia and the opportunities for all nations.
Of course, every bright outlook also comes with its risks. Inflation, global imbalances and inequality are key risks to achieving sustainable growth and poverty reduction in this region.
It is clear that we all still have much to do to secure our development goals. And there is much that the ADB can contribute to helping its developing members achieve this.
One key means by which the ADB assists countries in the region is through loans and grants from the Asian Development Fund. As such, a key priority for donors this year should be its replenishment.
Strong contributions from established donors are needed – Australia, for one, will continue to be a strong supporter. While we recognise that many donors face hard economic times, we need to ensure gains in reducing poverty are not reversed.
In addition, Australia also encourages emerging donors in the region to contribute. And each donor can draw encouragement from the improvements in the ADB's responsiveness and institutional effectiveness over recent years. We believe the organisation is in good shape for the upcoming replenishment.
I turn now to my messages for the ADB.
Firstly, President Kuroda, Australia thanks you, and all the staff at the ADB, for the improvements made to the Bank in recent years – Australia is pleased that you are seeking a second term and looks forward to you keeping the ADB focused on maintaining and consolidating these gains. To assist donors to maintain the support of their taxpayers, we would also like to see the Bank invest more effort into selling its achievements to the broader public.
Secondly, we encourage the Bank to continue to use its strong comparative advantage in the area of regional cooperation and integration to promote increased intra‑regional and South‑South trade of final consumption goods and investment flows. Assistance for developing sound domestic and regional financial systems, to safely handle capital inflows, is integral to this. It would also be consistent with strengthening financial sector regulation and reducing global imbalances.
Thirdly, we thank the ADB for its valuable work, in collaboration with APEC and the private sector, in scaling-up private sector investment in infrastructure and promoting sustainable forms of financing for the region's infrastructure needs. Promoting infrastructure in the region is important, particularly given many countries in the region are approaching capacity constraints. It will also help the region make greater use of its own savings, so helping to rebalance global growth.
Fourthly, in the interests of enhanced food security for all, we ask the ADB to promote agricultural and transport infrastructure to assist countries to improve agricultural productivity. Removing trade barriers globally is also necessary to allow markets to adjust to changes in prices, increase investment and smooth volatility. Rising food prices threaten progress already made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly eroding the wellbeing of the most vulnerable. We must ensure that efforts to enhance food security do not inadvertently make the problem worse.
Fifthly, the Bank should continue its work in addressing issues of gender inequality and weak institutional governance throughout the region.
Sixthly, we recognize and encourage the significant increase in support for small and fragile states including the Pacific Island states.
And finally, in an ever more interdependent world, we need the ADB to work closely with its member countries, regional groups, and global groups and institutions like the IMF, World Bank and the G20. By working collaboratively, we can achieve so much more than we can individually.
It is in that spirit that Australia looks forward to working with the Bank to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.