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Statement by ADB Governor of Singapore, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, at The 50th ADB Annual Meeting, Yokohama, Japan on 6th of May

06 May 2017

1    I thank the Government of Japan for hosting the 50th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and President Takehiko Nakao for the excellent meeting arrangements. 

2    Let me congratulate the ADB as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The ADB’s membership has increased from 31 members when it was established in 1966, to 57 members today. As a key development partner in the region, the ADB has grown in tandem with its members. For example, between the late 1960s and 1980s, the ADB facilitated several development projects in Singapore during our early post-independence years, including the expansion of lending activities at the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS), the expansion of our first international airport at Paya Lebar, and the building of the National University Hospital. Singapore is grateful to have benefitted from the efforts of the ADB as the institution grew from strength to strength.  As an active contributing partner, Singapore hopes to continue playing a meaningful role in the Bank’s important work of promoting regional development. Given Singapore’s own development history, we appreciate the role that the ADB plays in transforming economies and lifting living standards in Asia. 

3    In the last 50 years, Asian countries have made good progress in development.  At the same time, new needs and challenges have surfaced, calling for new solutions and new ways of delivering them.  In this context, and as the ADB scales up its operations following the merger of the Asian Development Fund (ADF) with Ordinary Capital Resources (OCR), I commend the Bank for its forward-looking approach and initiative to make itself “Stronger, Better, Faster”. The ADB’s draft strategy paper, Strategy 2030, recognises increasing diversity in the economic strengths, development needs and capacities of its member countries. It outlines the engagement principles as well as strategic initiatives that the ADB should adopt to advance the economic, social and institutional development of its developing members, and to align them with new international priorities such as the Sustainable Development Goals.  In this regard, I would like to highlight two important aspects of Strategy 2030, which will allow the ADB to fulfill its mission in a changed environment: (i) catalysing private sector funding; and (ii) providing sustainable urban solutions. 

4    First, the ADB has estimated that the infrastructure financing needs for the region will grow to $26 trillion by 2030.  Because of its long-term nature and the large and costly projects entailed, infrastructure development poses challenges for governments from countries across all stages of development.  The ADB’s continued focus in Strategy 2030 of optimising its balance sheet and catalysing private sector investment will help support the region’s pressing infrastructure needs; while mobilising multiple sources of financing and activating partnerships of various forms will bring in more innovative and efficient ways of doing so. Singapore looks forward to continued collaboration with ADB in this area. We especially welcome efforts by the ADB to improve engagements with the private sector to step up financing and investment operations – this is an opportunity for governments to enlist the private sector to design and implement innovative infrastructure solutions. We would also like to encourage continued efforts to enhance the capacity of capital market regulators and to support the ASEAN Capital Markets Forum’s (ACMF) implementation of regional integration activities such as the ASEAN Collective Investment Scheme; Streamlined Review Framework for ASEAN Common Prospectus; and the promotion of green bond issuance by ASEAN issuers.  

5    Second, Asia’s rapid urbanisation is driving up the need for sustainable urban solutions and financing. Strategy 2030’s proposal to add value through facilitating the transfer of technology and knowledge in sustainable urban solutions is therefore timely. We heartily support the efforts by the ADB to partner entities and institutions to transfer their experience and knowledge on successful urban solutions to developing member countries, and believe, indeed, that member countries stand to gain much by working together and learning from one another in this area. Singapore will continue to work and learn together with ADB and member countries.  Where it may be of benefit to fellow members, we stand ready to contribute as a knowledge partner to share our experience in long-term planning and urban governance, in areas such as water, greening and solid waste management. We hope to continue enhancing our partnership through research institutions and platforms such as the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Third Country Training Programmes and the Singapore Water Academy to catalyse broader adoption of financially and environmentally sustainable practices.  In the urban solutions space, and many other areas, we remain an attentive student, looking forward to growing from and getting better with the insights and experience from fellow ADB members. 

6    Singapore’s relationship with the ADB and its members is one of shared history, continuous growth, and mutual learning. Together with a “Stronger, Better, Faster” ADB, we look forward to and are confident of many more years ahead of shared growth and learning for the ADB and Asia.  As we celebrate the significant milestone of ADB’s 50th anniversary, we reaffirm our commitment to continued collaborations with the ADB and member countries, towards making a positive impact on our people’s lives.

7    Thank you.