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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has assured its 14 Pacific Developing member Countries (PDMCs) that it stands ready to support them to sustainably recover from the impacts of the COVID19 pandemic, in a more tailored and effective manner.
While Fiji and Papua New Guinea are covered by their own country partnership strategies, the ADB hopes to strengthen regional co-operation and integration with the rest of the 12 countries.
Addressing Pacific Governors through a virtual link, ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa while the pandemic has resulted in border closures and restrictions, “I strongly believe that globalisation will come back but with a different shape.”
“ADB is ready to support our developing members in the Pacific to seize renewed opportunities through measures such as diversifying global and regional value chains, and strengthening regional health security.
“In this regard, making safe and effective vaccines available to all, including the poor and the vulnerable is a key priority.
Prior to COVID-19, ADB had initiated support for the rollout of vaccines to reduce the prevalence of pneumonia and diarrhoea in children, as well as a vaccine to reduce incidence of cervical cancer in four Pacific countries - Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. This provides a base for equitable and efficient distribution of the future COVID-19 vaccine.
“Regional procurement of vaccines, regional hubs for storage of consolidated orders, strengthening of in-country cold chain and vaccine distribution channels, as well as building the capacities of health professionals, and community outreach and awareness programs will be critical to success. ADB stands ready to assist, assured Asakawa – who is leading his first Annual Meeting as ADB President.
Another priority for the ADB is to ensure debt sustainability through domestic resource mobilisation as a key to underpin future growth.
“COVID-19 has caused across-the-board economic contractions, placed pressure on public finances, and pushed up fiscal deficits. So, in the medium term, ensuring debt sustainability through timely fiscal consolidation should be considered.
“Governments also have to strengthen their institutions to enhance their ability in domestic resource mobilisation and ADB is ready to support you to reform your tax policy and administration to expand the tax base while creating an enabling environment for business, said Asakawa.
In April this year, the ADB responded swiftly with a US$20 billion package to help Pacific Developing Member countries respond to the COVID19 pandemic. The US$20 billion package includes US$2.2 billion in concessional and grant resources.
“We have provided grant support for the purchase of much needed personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and quarantine facilities, as well as for the additional costs in controlling borders and building health sector capacity.
“Second, with a new quick-disbursing financing modality called COVID-19 Pandemic Response Option (CPRO), we are providing budget support of $60 million in total for three Pacific countries -Palau, Samoa and Solomon Islands. This support will help them finance crisis-related fiscal measures, including targeted social protection programs to the poor and the vulnerable.
Third, we have expanded our support through policy-based operations for two countries, Fiji and Tonga, totaling $112 million. This support will assist the governments in their reforms, including to strengthen macro-economic resilience through strengthening public finance management and sustaining private-sector led growth.
The ADB has also released contingent disaster financing funds in support of budget expenditures for seven countries -Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, totaling US$52 million.
President Asakawa said the ADB is also actively engaging with private sector – reaching out to financial institutions across nine Pacific countries, to discuss potential support, as well as approaching selected agribusiness and infrastructure companies to discuss COVID-19 impacts and requirements for potential ADB financing.
Commending the swift and decisive action taken by Pacific countries to close borders to minimise the entry of corona virus disease into the region, President Asakawa said these actions have had massive socio-economic impacts – the tourism industry has collapse, people have lost jobs, businesses struggling to stay afloat and revenues have fallen.
“The Pacific has made significant development gains over the past couple of decades, with increases in life expectancy, reduced maternal and child mortality, improved access to education, power, and safe water. But COVID-19 threatens to reverse these gains and exacerbate inequalities in our societies. All the while, demands for public support and stimulus packages are growing, said President Asakawa.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) began the second stage of its 53rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors via virtual meetings and online seminars today.
Ministers from ADB members, ADB Management, and development and industry experts will discuss a range of issues confronting Asia and the Pacific as it responds to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Webinar topics include universal health coverage, regional cooperation, technology and investments, resilient and inclusive recovery, and domestic resource mobilisation.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.
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