New Delhi,6 May:Following is the text of the Speech of Finance Minister, Shri P. Chidambaram delivered at the Annual General Meeting of Asian Development Bank in Madrid, Spain on 5th May, 2008:-“Mr President, Fellow Governors, Ladies and Gentlemen,May I start by warmly thanking our hosts, the Government of Spain, for the excellent arrangements they have made for this Annual General meeting.This historic and beautiful city of Madrid is an ideal venue for this important Annual Meeting of the ADB which will decide the Long Term Strategic Framework (LTSF) of the ADB and set the path for the Bank till 2020. We welcome ADB’s vision as "an Asia and Pacific Region free of poverty" and its mission to help “its Developing Member Countries (DMCs) reduce poverty and improve living conditions and quality of life".
Addressing Challenges in AsiaAsia is a challenging place for any development institution because of its heterogeneity. The region houses some of most dynamic economies of the world and also some of the most fragile. Even those middle income countries that have achieved considerable economic progress are still grappling with extreme poverty in pockets.
Role of the Private SectorAs emphasized in the LTSF document, the private sector would have to play a more important role in the development of the Asia and Pacific region. However, it is our belief and experience that the bulk of the resources for infrastructure would still have to be found through the public sector. The fundamental role of the ADB as a multilateral development bank should not be diluted by its over-emphasis on non-sovereign loans at the cost of sovereign loans. Hence, a portfolio restructuring plan for the ADB to increase the share of private sector in annual loans to 50 per cent will be consistent with the continued need for a vibrant public sector, and this twin strategy will succeed only if total loan approval and disbursement is enhanced significantly.
Regional integrationIndia welcomes Strategy 2020’s emphasis on regional co-operation, including the intention to increase the share of regional and subregional projects in the total operations. However, these must come as additionality to the national projects and preferably on concessional terms.
New SectorsIndia welcomes Strategy 2020’s choice of the five core areas of operations, namely, infrastructure, environment, regional cooperation and integration, financial sector development, and education. However, we would also like to see more stress on agriculture and irrigation and on health-related infrastructures. It would be both premature and inappropriate for ADB to disengage from agriculture fully. Improvement in irrigation infrastructure is important for increasing food grain production.”