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ADB 2017 Operations Reach $28.9 Billion

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Asian Development Bank (ADB) operations—comprising approvals of loans and grants, technical assistance (TA), and cofinancing—reached $28.9 billion in 2017 in its continued efforts to help meet Asia and the Pacific’s development needs, according to preliminary figures released today.

Approvals of loans and grants from ADB’s own resources reached a record $19.1 billion, representing a 9% increase from the $17.5 billion seen in 2016. This puts ADB well on its way to meet its $20 billion target by 2020. Of the total, nonsovereign (primarily private sector) operations accounted for $3.2 billion, a 26% increase from $2.5 billion in 2016. TA, meanwhile, increased by about 22% to $205 million from $169 million in the previous year.

Commitments (the amount of loans and grants signed)—ADB’s new performance measure—reached $20.1 billion. This is a significant increase from $13.3 billion in 2016, reflecting the signing of large projects approved in 2016 and 2017.

“The strong figures for ADB operations in the past year were supported by the successful merger of ADB’s concessional Asian Development Fund lending operations with the Ordinary Capital Resources balance sheet—which took effect at the start of 2017,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao said. “This will allow us to deliver a much higher level of assistance to our developing member countries for years to come without seeking a capital increase.”

A highlight of ADB’s operational figures for 2017 is climate financing, which reached a record $4.5 billion (comprising mitigation $3.6 billion and adaptation $0.9 billion), a 21% increase from 2016. This puts ADB in a good position to achieve its $6 billion climate financing target by 2020.

Cofinancing approvals declined to $9.5 billion in 2017 from the $13.9 billion recorded in 2016, partly due to the delay of large expected cofinanced projects. Disbursements were $11.7 billion in 2017, compared to $12.7 billion in 2016. This is because of lower approvals, and hence disbursements, of policy-based lending and counter-cyclical support facility, among other factors.

“Disbursements are essential to make a difference on the ground. Cofinancing and catalyzation is a much-discussed strategy in the international community to realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Nakao. “ADB will come up with additional concrete measures to increase disbursements and cofinancing, building on the new procurement policy approved in April 2017 and ongoing efforts to leverage resources.”

Among ADB’s other operational highlights were projects that combine finance with innovative approaches to development, including satellite data and remote sensing to improve irrigation in Indonesia and Pakistan, pilot testing of climate-smart agriculture practices in Bangladesh, and supporting social welfare reforms in Mongolia to promote human development.

An innovative $100 million TA loan to the Philippines, approved in October 2017, will help the government prepare and deliver infrastructure projects under its Build Build Build program.

On the funding side, ADB offered new and innovative thematic products such as the health bond and gender bond. This is on top of increased efforts to raise local currency funding to meet the growing demand for nonsovereign local currency loans. ADB’s Indonesian rupiah bond in December was the first bond issued from a multilateral development bank of which Indonesia is a shareholder.

ADB launched three high-impact publications in 2017. Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs estimated Asia and the Pacific’s annual infrastructure needs at $1.7 trillion per year until 2030. A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific put forward scenarios of the devastating effects of climate change. The ADB history book, Banking on the Future of Asia and the Pacific focused on the region’s economic development, the evolution of the international development agenda, and the story of ADB over 50 years.

To scale up the bank’s operations with quality, the ADB Board approved the 2018 budget totaling $672.3 million, an increase of 3.9% over 2017, comprising 2.2% price growth and 1.7% volume growth. This budget supports the ongoing investments in IT reforms and organizational resilience. ADB continues to make its utmost efforts at staff optimization and efficiency measures.

A key priority for ADB in 2018 is to finalize its new corporate strategy, Strategy 2030. ADB’s 51st Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors will be held in Manila again in May after 6 years. Strategy 2030, the impact of technological change and globalization on jobs, aging and longevity dividends, role of women entrepreneurs, and private sector participation in infrastructure development will be among the topics discussed. ADB expects more than 3,000 participants to attend the meeting.

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Improved economic conditions boost air-traveller numbers worldwide

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A record 4.1 billion passengers took to the skies in 2017 onboard some 37 million scheduled flights globally, the United Nations civil aviation agency reported Thursday, highlighting that the fastest growth was seen among low-cost carriers.

According to preliminary figures released by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), air travel demand growth too gained “solid momentum” on the back of improved global economic conditions throughout the year.

The upward trend was driven by the strengthening investment in advanced economies as well as the recovery in emerging market and developing economies owing to the increased export demand,” said the UN agency.

It added that lower air fares owing to the low fuel price also continued to stimulate traffic growth, albeit at a more moderate level compared to 2016.

In terms of geographic distribution, Europe remained as the largest international market (37 per cent of the global total), recording a strong 8.1 per cent growth over the previous year. Asia-Pacific came in second with 29 per cent and growth of 9.6 per cent over 2016.

North America accounted for a 13 per cent global share, and demonstrated but notched up the slowest growth as a region (4.9 per cent over 2016).

The Latin America and the Caribbean region bagged 4 per cent of the international traffic and saw the largest improvement among all regions at 10 per cent. Africa had the smallest traffic share three per cent, grew slightly faster than last year at 7.6.

Low-cost carriers and air cargo post strong numbers

The ICAO news release also reveals that low-cost carriers consistently grew at a faster pace compared to the world average growth, carrying an estimated 1.2 billion passengers and accounting for approximately 30 per cent of the world total scheduled passengers.

At the same time, bolstered by improving global economic conditions and world trade, air cargo demonstrated a strong rebound in 2017, recording a “robust” 9.5 per cent growth, a “significant improvement” from the 3.8 registered in 2016.

ICAO also reported that in 2017, average jet fuel prices increased by about 25 per cent compared to 2016 but remained significantly lower than the prices observed for the ten years prior to 2016.

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Rohingya Crisis Growing, More Support Needed

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The Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh is growing at a rapid pace and there is an urgent need to support the host communities to cope with the influx and to help the refugees who are extremely vulnerable, the World Bank said today.

After visiting the Rohingya camps in the Cox’s Bazar area, World Bank South Asia Region Vice President Annette Dixon praised the government of Bangladesh and its people for sheltering and caring for the large influx of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar. She said the World Bank was ready to work with the government to help the host community and the displaced Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar.

“The scale of the influx is enormous. As far as the eyes can see, lines after lines of shelters—made of plastic sheets and bamboos—stretched over the deforested hills. It is creating huge pressure on the infrastructure and services as well as on the water resources and the environment. When the monsoon approaches, the challenges with disease and natural disasters will increase,” she said.

She visited the registered and makeshift camps and spoke with the Rohingya and the local community. She also visited registration centers, health and food distribution centers, children centers and women-friendly spaces. While these efforts are helping the Rohingya cope, they will need more support to rebuild their lives.

The people and the government of Bangladesh have shown great generosity to the Rohingya people in their hour of need. As soon as the crisis broke, with the government, the local and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and development partners extended support. This helped save thousands of lives,”  Dixon said. “But the needs are much greater. If the government seeks assistance, we can mobilize more resources to address the needs of both the host communities and the Rohingya people in a way that will continue to benefit the local people after the Rohingya leave.”

Dixon met local government officials and representatives of the many Bangladeshi and international relief agencies and NGOs that are working to support the Rohingya population in the Cox’s Bazar area.

Earlier in the week, Dixon spoke at the invitation of the government at the Bangladesh Development Forum in Dhaka. She praised Bangladesh’s remarkable success in reducing poverty and advancing development.

As she concluded today a five-day visit to Bangladesh, she said: “Bangladesh is an inspiration for development—it halved the number of people living in extreme poverty and created more opportunities for all. The country is at the cusp of another transformation: that of an upper middle-income country. The World Bank is committed to help Bangladesh address areas critical for achieving its vision of upper-middle income status.”

In the recent years, the World Bank support to Bangladesh has expanded. Currently, the World Bank’s support stands at nearly $10 billion, which represents a more than doubling in the last five years.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed close to $27 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country.

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Brand Africa and biodiversity focus of the 9th edition of INVESTOUR

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Nearly 30 African Tourism ministers convened at INVESTOUR to debate and exchange experiences on the development of the sector in the continent. This unique Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa is jointly organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Casa Africa and FITUR.

Two round tables and a business-to-business component integrates the 9th edition of INVESTOUR that took place in the framework of FITUR, the Tourism Fair in Madrid. The first session, moderated by Thebe Ikalafeng, Chairman at Brand Africa, addressed branding strategies to position the African continent in the travel market.

“International tourist arrivals in Africa grew by around 8% for the second consecutive year with 62 million arrivals registered for 2017. These strong results that show the potential of tourism in Africa but also the prioritization of the sector in the development agenda in the continent,” said UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“INVESTOUR has become a consolidated platform for sharing ideas and projects around the tourism sector in Africa. We started as a small summit and nine years later, nearly 30 African tourism ministers convene here to position the African continent, a topic that will occupy the debates in this year’s edition,” explained Luis Padrón, Director General of Casa Africa.

The second panel evaluated the added value of African biodiversity as a strong component of the tourism sector in the continent. Wildlife, reserves and geographic treasures make Africa unique with regard to its tourism offer. According to UNWTO research, wildlife watching travel represents 80% of the total annual tourist arrivals to Africa. However, it is mandatory to continue working on conservation and protection measures and to engage stakeholders of different nature such as governments, local communities, private sector recipients and the media.

Within that round table, the UNWTO/Chimelong Programme on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism was presented. The initiative, jointly implemented by UNWTO and the Chimelong Group, based in Guandong (China), aims at contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda through sustainable tourism and particularly wildlife conservation. The initiative comprises capacity building, advocacy and knowledge sharing methodologies and addresses multiple stakeholders such as governments, civil society and the media.

In the afternoon, tourism stakeholders gathered to discuss business opportunities in the continent. 15 inspiring projects were shared with the aim to build partnerships around tourism development in African nations.

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