UN Millennium Development Goals Summit

Mr. Chairperson, Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to take part in this Roundtable on partnerships. Partnerships under MDG8 call on developed countries, donors, and private sector to assist developing countries through development finance, market access, technology and knowledge sharing, and other resources as they focus on achieving MDG 1 to 7. Therefore, partnership and shared responsibility reside at the very core of MDGs.

Mr. Chairperson, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

The ESCAP/ADB/UNDP Regional MDG Report 2010/2011 – which we launched on 20th September – show clearly that, prior to the economic crisis, Asia-Pacific region had been making impressive progress towards several MDG targets. The financial crisis coming in a quick succession of the food-fuel crisis has created fresh complications by pushing millions of people in poverty and by disrupting the growth process across the world. Furthermore, the frequent natural disasters –the Pakistan floods being the latest—keep creating new poor.

I would like to argue that in the aftermath of the financial crisis, poverty reduction and achievement of MDGs should occupy centre stage of the development strategy. It is now widely believed that consumption in the western economies especially the US will be declining in the coming years. There is now a concern about sustaining the dynamism of emerging economies in the context of this decline. ESCAP has suggested in its latest reports that with 950 million people living in poverty and with wide MDG and other development gaps especially in the LDCs and in the small island economies, there is considerable headroom for generation of aggregate demand through additional consumption and investment through inclusive policies. Achievement of MDGs should no more be seen as a social welfare scheme but a critical part of the strategy to promote growth itself. A clear and strong message needs to go from this Summit that achievement of MDGs, narrowing development gaps and other policies to foster balanced development have to now form a central place in sustaining growth in a post-crisis world and the entire world economy has a stake in this!

Mr. Chairperson, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

Another point I would like to emphasize is about the continued relevance of international assistance especially for countries with special needs. A recent ESCAP study found that the Asia-Pacific region would require additional resources of the order of US$ 636 billion over the 2010-2015 for closing the MDG gaps (over and above what it is spending). For the region as a whole, the costs may not seem daunting, but for individual countries they can be steep-- over 20% of the GDP for some of the least developed and other countries with special needs. These countries need to be assisted through ODA.

Besides overseas development assistance that is critical for MDG financing in many developing especially least developed countries, South-South cooperation is becoming an important channel of resources and technical assistance for many countries. Significant magnitude of such assistance is originating now in countries in the region such as China, India, Thailand, among others in Asia-Pacific region.

Among other avenues of global partnership, developing countries need to be assisted with market access. The effective and unconditional duty-free-quota-free market access needs to be provided to the LDCs. It is admirable that China and India even though developing countries themselves have both launched such tariff preference schemes for LDCs in recent years. I hope that this initiative would be a trendsetter.

Another aspect of partnerships is exploitation of the potential of regional economic integration. For geopolitical and historical regions, Asia-Pacific region has been better connected with the western world than with itself. In recent years regional economic integration has received a boost especially with a number of sub-regional groupings such as ASEAN, SAARC, BIMSTEC deepening economic integration. Time has come to consolidate these sub-regional and bilateral groupings to build a unified Asia-Pacific market. It is my belief that with some of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies, Asia and the Pacific can become an even greater economic powerhouse if it develops a more integrated regional market bound by stronger physical connectivity. It will boost its resilience to shocks and enable smaller economies to benefit from extended markets and specialization. Asia-Pacific region needs to move towards a broader regional arrangement which brings together major economies of the region such as China, India and Japan with poorer economies into a unified Asia-Pacific market.

Finally, lack of a well developed regional financial architecture has been a reason why the region’s central banks have invested their growing savings and foreign exchange reserves in the United States treasury bills thus perpetuating the global macroeconomic imbalances. The recent multilateralization of the Chiang-Mai Initiative is an important step but is limited to management of liquidity crises. With combined reserves of nearly $ 5 trillions, the region now has the ability to develop a more ambitious regional cooperative architecture that could not only help prevent and manage crises but also assist in closing the development gaps and unleash the potential aggregate demand in the region’s lesser developed regions. At the 66th Session held in Incheon last month, the member countries have asked the ESCAP secretariat to assist in elaborating the elements of a stable and development-friendly regional financial architecture.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

In conclusion, Mr. Chairperson, I believe that partnerships at various levels can play an important role in assisting the Asia-Pacific region to achieve the MDGs but also sustain its recovery and dynamism for inclusive and sustainable development and become an anchor of peace and stability in the world economy. ESCAP as the regional arm of the United Nations, and the all-inclusive forum for Asia and the Pacific, stands ready to provide the analysis, and facilitate the formation of policy consensus, for this shared responsibility and common good.

I thank you for your attention.