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ADB: Investing in people, planet key to ‘great reset’

INVESTING in people and the planet will bring about the “great reset” which the region needs to recover from the pandemic, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said investing in people, including women who have adversely been affected by the pandemic; investing in safety nets; and efforts related to climate change are needed if the region is to recover from the recession.

Asakawa said this also means investing in health through universal health coverage (UHC) and vaccine production in the region. He said this will not only boost recovery efforts but prepare for future health shocks.

“We need to work more closely together to overcome this crisis and ensure a resilient, inclusive and green recovery as everybody mentioned,” Asakawa said.

In the CNBC Debate on Monday, Asakawa highlighted the need to look at the plight of women in the region. Not only were their livelihoods affected; also domestic violence also worsened because of the prolonged lockdown.

Many of the women, because of the lockdowns, were forced to stay home with their abusers. Asakawa called this lamentable, adding that ADB’s developing member countries must discuss ways to address gender-based violence in the region.

Investing in people, he said, is also important especially when it comes to health. Asakawa, in the Governor’s Seminar on Cooperation for a Resilient Future, agreed with Japan Governor and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso that UHC is necessary for the recovery.

Asakawa said these efforts could go with investing in regional vaccine manufacturers, especially in light of the current situation: very high demand for vaccines versus small supply.

“In order to mitigate this huge demand and supply gap, I have now a strong feeling that we need to start to invest more and more in the vaccine manufacture companies in our region right like the ones in India in order to enhance, expand the vaccine production capacity; that’s another thing we should seriously consider,” Asakawa said.

Apart from investing in people, Asakawa thinks climate change must be addressed given that greenhouse gases (GHGs) have again started rising.

The ADB President said the Asia-Pacific region accounts for almost 50 percent of carbon dioxide gas emissions. While there was a decrease in GHGs because of the lockdown last year, especially in the first three quarters of 2020, CO2 emissions have increased by the fourth quarter.

Asakawa said efforts must be exerted to prevent these levels from rising further, not only to protect the environment but also meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement.

ADB, he said, will do its part through its Strategy 2030 where it introduced two concrete numerical targets—it aims to devote 75 percent of its total operation in number to adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Another target is that between 2019 and 2030, the ADB will provide $80 billion in climate financing. This will lead to an annual allocation of $6.7 billion for climate adaptation and mitigation projects.

In the CNBC debate, Standard Chartered PLC Group Chair José Viñals said Covid-19 was a great unifier but also a great divider because of uneven recovery and access to medical equipment and vaccines.

Viñals said recovery from the recession in a sustainable manner means addressing inequalities through the effective cooperation of private and public institutions.

He said the public sector can craft policy directions that will enable the private sector to cooperate with government. He said one such cooperation it had with the governments of Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines was the issuance of pandemic bonds.

This has boosted the revenues of governments to combat Covid-19 as well as boost their social protection to help those whose livelihoods were severely affected by the lockdowns.

“I expect this to continue being necessary in the future because of the challenges providing vaccination the control of out breaks in the virus and things like that so I think that this is something which will remain very important,” Viñals said.

“I think it’s also very critical that the private sector in the financial sector in particular play a role also in providing finance to enhance some of the sustainable development goals which are critical to bring us for more inclusive society,” he added.

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