Over 4,000 delegates consisting of ministers and senior government officials, business leaders, finance experts, and civil society representatives are expected to gather at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) today for the 45th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Board of Governors.
Manila has hosted the annual meeting 15 times, including the first one in 1968.
The gathering of top policymakers, businessmen, media, academics, and development institution representatives was last held here in June 2003.
Expected to attend the four-day meet for the first time are the president of the Inter-American Development Bank, the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the secretary-general of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the chief executive officer of the Agence Francaise de Developpement, and the chairman of the Governing Board of Council of the Europe Development Bank.
Top ASEAN+3 finance officials are also expected to meet on the sidelines of the conference that ends on May 5.
This year’s Governors’ Seminar will explore “How Can Asia Respond to the Global Economic Crisis and Transformation” featuring ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, along with top finance officials from the Philippines, Japan, India and China.
The seminar would focus on what Asia must do to both weather and help resolve the global economic downturn, as well as how suggested policy reforms and economic rebalancing may affect poverty, inequality, employment and the environment. As host of this year’s meeting, the Philippines chose the theme “Inclusive Growth through Good Governance,” providing a platform to discuss one of the region’s most pressing issues: how to bring the benefits of Asia’s rapid growth to all levels of society.
This year’s meeting is being held amid the growth uncertainties in advanced countries led by the US as well as the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
The Asia Pacific region has seen steady growth and is leading global recovery but remains vulnerable to growing inflation, spikes in fuel prices, austerity measures in the Eurozone, and worsening impacts of climate change.
As such, the delegates would hear from experts about urban disaster risk management; the pros and cons of pursuing a growth model built on modern services; ways to get financial services to nearly three billion poor people around the world; ensuring food security in the region; and reforming financial safety nets.
Iokibe Makoto, chair of Japan’s post-earthquake/tsunami reconstruction design council, will participate in a “Vulnerable Cities: Waking Up to the Need for Urban Disaster Risk Management” seminar looking at specific tools governments can use to both protect cities and build their resilience.
It would be moderated by UN assistant secretary-general for disaster reduction Margareta Wahlstrom.
On Thursday, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chair Rajendra Pachauri and World Bank (WB) vice president Pamela Cox are scheduled to speak about “Climate Change and Green Asia.”
The “Seven Billion and Growing: How will the World Feed Itself?” seminar is scheduled on May 4, tackling a recent ADB report that found a 10 percent increase in the price of basic food staples could push another 64 million South Asians into poverty.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Hiroyuki Konuma and agricultural experts from China, India and France would discuss how to ensure that everyone has enough to eat amid growing demands for food, feed and fuel.
Meanwhile, simultaneous meetings organized by the private sector will be held at the SM Mall of Asia SMX convention center.
One of its highlights, the Philippine Corporate and Investment (PCI) Pavilion, will be graced by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The Vice President will deliver the keynote speech and will join the panel discussion on “PPP as a catalyst for transformation, build to develop: the impact of social infrastructure investments.”
Earlier, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said that the achievements of the nearly two-year-old Aquino administration would be highlighted during the ADB meeting.
“This is like the coming out party of the Aquino administration… It is to display the reforms and changes put in place by the government,” Purisima stressed. Purisima said the event aims to build a good impression on different dignitaries and leaders in the monetary and financial world about the progress of the Philippines.
“Good governance is good economics. That’s what we want to show,” he said.
Purisima added that the event aims to show visitors that since the Aquino administration started, it has waged a tough battle against corruption, which has resulted in increased investor confidence.
Cox leads WB delegation
Meanwhile, the newly appointed WB vice president for East Asia and the Pacific is expected to arrive tonight (May 3) at around 11:30 p.m., on board Korean Airlines flight KE 623 to lead a delegation to the annual ADB meeting in Manila.
Pamela Cox will meet some 4,700 foreign delegation members including government officials and other development partners to learn about the country’s work to improve governance and alleviate poverty.
Cox said she would personally see the progress that the Philippines and its people have made over the years to fight poverty.
Cox, a development expert with more than 30 years’ experience, served as the Bank’s Chief of Country Operations in East Asia and the Pacific – including the Philippines – from 1994 to 1996.
“I look forward to discussing with the government and other stakeholders how the Bank can further support the Philippines’ efforts to create opportunities for all,” Cox said in an earlier report.
Cox also brings significant experience in disaster risk management from her previous position as WB vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that is also prone to natural disasters.
It was there that she played a leading role in supporting inclusive growth in emerging economies, providing innovative financial and knowledge services to meet the needs of the developing country.
Many ongoing programs in East Asia today were pioneered in Latin America, and Cox is committed to explore inventive mechanisms that will help respond to urgent needs caused by natural disasters and other crises.
While in Manila, Cox will also visit beneficiaries of the government’s conditional cash transfer program, Pantawid Pamilya, which provides families with cash if they send their children to school and comply with health checks.
The program launched in 2008 with support from the WB has benefited about 2.3 million households, including children from age 0 to 14.
The program will be stretched in 2012 to bring the number of beneficiaries to three million households with a budget of P39 billion.
Under the theme, Making Growth Work for the Poor, the WB Group has been supporting the government’s Philippine Development Plan.
As of March 2012, the Bank has a total commitment of over $1.8 billion with an additional $997 million in commitments from the Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corp. (IFC).
Protests from labor leaders
Meanwhile, protest rallies from global labor leaders will greet delegates of the much-touted ADB meeting today.
According to the Global Unions Federation (GUF), its members are in the country to present a show of force against the policies of the multilateral lender.
GUF added some of its members have already arrived in the Philippines and joined the Labor Day march to Mendiola yesterday.
In its statement, GUF noted that its members share a common determination to organize and defend human rights and labor standards, as well as promote the growth of trade unions for the benefit of all working men, women and their families.
Its members include the Public Services International (PSI), Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), the Union Network International (UNI), and the International Transport Federation (ITF).
The group claims to represent about 70 million workers across the globe in the different sectors such as the public sector, building and construction industries as well as the services and transport sectors.
Philippine Investor Relations head Claro Fernandez, for his part, said that while protests cannot be avoided, there is an opportunity for civil society organizations to actually take part. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Rudy Santos, Iris Gonzales