Students were treated to guest speakers, Tomoyuki Kimura, the bank’s Director General of Strategy, Policy and Review and Robert Schoellhammer the bank’s European representative, from the Asian Development Bank in the Thomas Davis Theatre this morning. While it was primarily for students from an economic background the lecture was open for all to attend.
Kimura spoke first by giving a brief introduction to the ADB’s history and mission as well as its operations and ongoing projects. The bank’s main operations are providing financing options to development projects in developing economies across Asia and the Pacific. “What makes the bank different”, said Kimura, “is that its AAA credit rating enables it to give loans at low-interest rates to both public and private sectors”. Its shareholder base also set it apart he said, “Our shareholders are primarily governments both from Asian and non-Asian countries”.
Another area that the bank specializes in is its offering of advice along with development loans. “We help them identify development projects and provide financial assistance”. While governments were the main recipients of the bank’s services Kimura pointed out that the bank also plays a role in developing the private sector “Our main clients are governments, but approximately 20% of our clients are in the private sector”. Kimura finished his lecture with the bank’s Strategy 2030 initiative, which seeks to build an Asia that is “Prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable”.
Robert Schoellhammer, the European representative for ADB spoke next. Giving a breakdown of the numbers at ADB, he assured the audience that although the bank’s total operations are valued at $32.22 billion dollars this was “a drop in the bucket” when compared to the returns on many of these operations. He stressed that the value of these numbers do not matter but rather the viability of the projects that the bank’s loans financed. “Numbers tend to get a lot of attention in development finance but in truth, it’s about the impact these numbers make”.
A common theme throughout the lecture was that Asia’s population is disproportionately affected by climate change and Schoellhammer said that the bank looked at development projects that helped emerging Asian economies transition to sustainable climate-friendly energy. Giving the example of Mongolia, he showed how the country’s reliance on agriculture and its environment being deeply affected by adverse weather created through climate change has hindered development. One of the bank’s financed projects, a highway that connects Mongolia’s northwestern border with Russia with its western border with China, has seen rapid economic development in the country’s western region.
The audience had the opportunity to ask the lecturers questions at the conclusion of the lecture. When asked how the ADB evaluates the success of the projects it finances, Kimura used the example of funding a water network infrastructure. “Whenever a project is financed, monitoring systems are put in place for both output and outcomes. The output being the amount of water that is supplied while the outcome should be an increased access to water for households”.
The final question from the audience was related to China’s Velvet Road initiative and how the ADB’s aspirations tie into it. Kimura answered by saying this is one of the most frequently asked questions put forward to the ADB. When a large-scale project such as the Velvet Road is undertaken by a particular country, the ADB focuses on smaller scale projects which enable the larger one. “The ADB looks at sub-regional programmes such as interconnectivity projects which we finance.” Schoellhammer added by saying many countries “don’t want to be just another transit stop on the Velvet Road” and that the ADB would seek to ensure they get the most out of the greater connectivity brought by the Velvet Road.