Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has underscored the strong partnership between the Philippines and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as aptly demonstrated by the multilateral institution’s full support for the “Build, Build, Build” program and other growth-friendly initiatives of the Duterte administration.
Dominguez also lauded the ADB under the leadership of its president, Takehiko Nakao, for exploring ways of forging closer coordination with the World Bank to better respond to the needs of countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Thank you very much for all the support of ADB to us,” Dominguez told Nakao during a recent meeting in Manila. “We are accomplishing a lot because ADB is 100 percent behind us, especially with this assistance for the Malolos-Clark Railway Project and the secondary education support program. It is proof that the institution is very supportive of our growth.”
The ADB’s US$2.75 billion financing for the construction of a 53.1-kilometer (km) passenger railway connecting Malolos in Bulacan to the Clark International Airport (CIA) in Pampanga is the multilateral institution’s single largest infrastructure investment ever here or in any other country.
Last July 11, Dominguez and ADB vice president Ahmed Saeed signed a $1.3-billion loan agreement representing the first tranche of the Bank’s loan for the Malolos-Clark Railway Project.
During the meeting on 23 July, Nakao informed Dominguez that the ADB heeded his proposal to set up an expert advisory group for digital technology within the Bank, which would prove useful in improving the way ADB delivers assistance to its member-countries. ADB has invited Dominguez to take part in its first meeting set in September.
Dominguez welcomed the ADB’s positive response to his proposal, and expressed interest in joining the first meeting of the Thematic Group. This could prove beneficial for the Philippines’ ongoing efforts to digitalize, among others, the government’s frontline services, tax collection and payment systems, as well as in tapping agricultural technology to rev up the farm and fisheries sector.
It was also Dominguez who had proposed that the ADB and World Bank build on each other’s complementarities to improve and more cohesively deliver development assistance to countries in the region.
Dominguez is governor for the Philippines in both the ADB and World Bank.
“It would be a good idea that we meet with both of you, World Bank and ADB, on an annual basis to see how we are progressing with this collaboration,” Dominguez suggested to Nakao during the meeting.
Nakao said representatives from the ADB, World Bank and the Philippines’ Department of Finance (DOF) met last May to discuss how the two multilateral institutions can ”streamline processes” in delivering aid to the region.
Dominguez further suggested that the ADB and World Bank also discuss conducting portfolio reviews on the Philippines’ proposed projects, and ways to unify procurement procedures and economic assessment analysis.
“For joint co-financing of infrastructure activities, we are working together under a common platform. We are starting to do it in certain countries,” Nakao said.
In a meeting last April in Washington DC, World Bank Group president David Malpass welcomed Dominguez’s proposal on closer ADB-World Bank collaboration on development efforts.
Dominguez said his proposal will help reduce overhead costs not only for both institutions but also for countries seeking development assistance, in terms of lowering their operational expenses and borrowing rates.
The Finance chief first formally broached his proposal during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 23rd Finance Ministers Meeting in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Malpass had said during his meeting with Dominguez that a coordinated country program, which should start with a coordinated economic outlook, is now being worked out to begin doing away with redundancies.
The World Bank president noted that coordination, as pointed out by Dominguez, is necessary to avoid one institution absorbing high front-end costs for a particular project and another institution offering a lower financing package and ending up getting the credit.
Malpass has suggested that the two multilateral institutions create a subgroup that would focus discussions on a specific aspect of development assistance, such as infrastructure, to avoid redundancies and ensure that projects are done efficiently.