KUALA LUMPUR – The journey to recovery is only beginning for Southeast Asia after the struggles with the pandemic. That’s why the Asian Development Bank (ADB) wants to fuel efforts to revitalise the region for a resilient and prosperous future.
During the third annual Southeast Asia Development Symposium (SAEDS), ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa urges everyone to cooperate to hasten efforts for an inclusive and sustainable recovery.
In his keynote address at the event, he said that ADB prepared a US$20 billion package to support governments in SEA with financing stimulus measures that focuses on the poor and vulnerable.
Aside from that, the bank launched a US$9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility to ensure everyone gets quick and fair access to vaccines.
“The recovery needs to empower women and ensure economies work for everyone. To do this, we need to reinvigorate value chains and trading systems in ways that improve millions of lives,” Asakawa added.
Tourism: A key to SEA’s recovery
Asakawa believes that a revitalised tourism industry is one of the keys to recovery in the SEA region.
In line with that, he revealed ADB had established a new Southeast Asia Tourism Hub last year. This is to help countries prepare environmentally sustainable tourism projects which support local businesses.
To further achieve the goal, he emphasised on focusing on climate change.
“In this regard, ADB has elevated our ambition to deliver US$100 billion in cumulative climate financing between 2019 and 2030. We had also revamped our Energy Policy to support the development of sustainable energy systems.
“We introduced several game-changing initiatives, such as our Energy Transition Mechanism, to help the SEA region move towards a low-carbon future,” he said.
Financial recovery still an uphill battle
Asakawa also said it is important to acknowledge that countries are still working hard to face financial recovery.
In addition to ADB’s budget support, he said the bank wants to equip countries with important policy knowledge to fortify domestic resource mobilisation. ADB is also working to enhance institutional capacities and international tax cooperation.
He said that although the SEA region is on its path to recovery, there are still uncertainties ahead. This includes conflicts leading to great suffering and setbacks that would delay social and economic progress.
He noted that although Southeast Asia has persevered through the pandemic, many uncertainties remain, including the outbreak of conflicts that are causing great suffering and further setbacks to social and economic progress.
“But I firmly believe that our cooperation and creativity will allow us to emerge stronger than ever,” he added.
In a statement released by ADB recently, the bank revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic pushed 4.7 million Southeast Asians into extreme poverty in 2021 as 9.3 million jobs disappeared. Among those most affected are unskilled workers, retail workers, those in the informal economy, and small businesses without digital presence.
It led to widespread unemployment, worsening inequality, and rising poverty levels especially amongst women, younger workers and elderly here in SEA. Even with projected growth to the region’s economic output in 2022, it is still expected to remain more than 10% below baseline for a scenario without COVID.
ADB cites a report titled “Southeast Asia Rising from the Pandemic” which revealed that 59% of the region’s population was fully vaccinated as of February this year.
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