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‘CAREC, BRI common visions of improving connectivity for shared prosperity’

‘CAREC, BRI common visions of improving connectivity for shared prosperity’

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3 May 2018 - 18:07
‘CAREC, BRI common visions of improving connectivity for shared prosperity’
author avatar
3 May 2018 - 18:07

By Shahmahmood “Haroon”

KABUL (Pajhwok): Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) member countries can capitalize on new regional and international development dynamics, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to strengthen regional infrastructure, boost trade, and reduce poverty, according to participants at a high-level Asian Development Bank (ADB) seminar.

“CAREC and BRI uphold common visions of improving connectivity for shared prosperity,” said ADB Vice-President Mr. Wencai Zhang. “The overlapping geographies of CAREC and BRI provide further impetus for close coordination to jointly build resilient and sustainable regional infrastructure, strengthen trade links, and create jobs and greater economic opportunities for all our countries.”

Participants agreed that CAREC member countries can benefit from the emerging enabling environment for economic cooperation in the region. Participants shared their insights on how stronger collaboration among regional and international cooperation initiatives can support this process. They agreed to continue the momentum of discussion and identify concrete regional investment projects to deepen economic cooperation in the region.

Over the past two decades, the CAREC program has grown from 6 projects worth $247 million in 2001 to 185 projects worth more than $31.5 billion as of December 2017. It has helped establish multimodal transportation networks; increased energy trade and security; broken down trade barriers; facilitated the free movement of people and freight; and laid the groundwork for the development of economic corridors.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in co-financing.

The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program has a membership of 11 countries: Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The other issue’s discussed during first day of ADB’s 51st Annual Meeting in Manila, Philippines in different seminars  such as      despite the progress made over the last two decades in empowering women in Asia and the Pacific, there remain huge gender gaps, particularly in the economic and political spheres. The ADB-hosted seminar “Breaking Barriers: Women Entrepreneurship in Asia and the Pacific” was held at ADB’s 51st Annual Meeting, with the participation of policymakers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and development practitioners.

The message from the seminar is that supporting women’s entrepreneurship is key to their economic empowerment.

“Women’s entrepreneurship is important because it helps us move closer to the goal of achieving a more gender equal Asia and the Pacific,” said ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao at the seminar. “Under our new Strategy 2030, ADB will pay increased attention to generating employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for women.”

In the theme chapter of the Asian Development Outlook Update 2015, ADB estimated that closing the existing gender gaps could generate a 30% increase in the per capita income of an average Asian economy in one generation or 30 years, and 70% in two generations.

The panelists agreed that while there is a long road ahead to full gender equality, policies supporting women’s entrepreneurship can help ignite momentum for this effort, together with access to information, government services, and credit. The seminar discussed various ways in which women entrepreneurs can overcome the multiple barriers they face and how the public and private sectors can help accelerate support for women startups and entrepreneurs. 

Nearly half of ADB lending already has strong gender design elements. ADB under  Strategy 2030 will place an even stronger emphasis on women’s economic empowerment. Infrastructure projects will maximize women’s access to markets and opportunities for skilled jobs. Through enhanced technical and vocational education and training programs, ADB will enable women’s access to quality jobs in nontraditional, higher-paying sectors. ADB will also expand integrated support for women entrepreneurs through better access to finance, the adoption of new technologies, and policy and institutional reforms.

ADB has been adopting innovative approaches involving other partners in promoting women’s entrepreneurship. In April 2018, ADB received a $12.6 million grant from the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) (a global fund hosted by the World Bank Group) to help Sri Lankan women-led businesses obtain bank loans and improve business skills. This new source of funding complements ADB’s own financing of $175 million, which was approved earlier to encourage local partner banks to grow their small and medium-sized enterprise portfolios—especially for businesses that are outside Colombo or are women-led.

On the Seminar Considers How New Technologies Can Improve Financial Inclusion in Asia

Asia and the Pacific has made important progress in expanding and deepening its financial systems, but must make further progress to improve financial inclusion using new financial technology (fintech), according to participants at a high-level Asian Development Bank (ADB) seminar during its 51st Annual Meeting in Manila, Philippines. This seminar was co-hosted by ADB, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

“Governments in the region can improve financial inclusion by broadening access to basic digital infrastructure and providing an enabling environment for innovators and entrepreneurs,” ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao said. “Policymakers should also consider ways to improve regulations, including protecting consumers against cybercrimes and fraud, while striking the right balance between innovation and financial stability.”

Panelists discussed how fintech, including new innovations like distributed ledger technologies, virtual currencies, machine learning, and big data, can improve financial inclusion. The lack of access to financial services is widely viewed as a key challenge for Asia’s poor households and smaller firms. About two billion people in the world still do not have access to finance and half of them live in Asia and the Pacific.

“Fintech can help foster financial inclusion in Asia by its ability to reach rural areas, making financial services more affordable, and broadening access to small and medium-sized firms,” said Mr. Furusawa. “Financial regulators will play a crucial role in creating an environment that promotes financial inclusion while mitigating the risks.”

Seminar participants also agreed that new technologies hold promise for bringing financial services to poorer communities and for overcoming the challenge of obtaining the collateral needed to access formal credit markets. International financial institutions such as the IMF and ADB can play a significant role in supporting countries as new technologies are introduced.

Beside the seminars the ADB Signs Agreements with the Republic of Korea to Strengthen Co-financing and Technical Cooperation.

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