I would like to welcome you to the 50th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank. Thank you all for taking the time to join us here in Yokohama.
In the ADB’s 50-year history, Asia has seen many of its member countries grow from low-income to middle-income nations. Indeed, a few member countries have succeeded in joining the category of high-income countries. The increase in Asian per capita GDP has been accompanied by narrowing income gaps between developing countries in Asia and high-income countries around the world. It has also brought a 20-year increase in the life span of Asian people and great reductions in extreme poverty. There is no doubt that the ADB has made significant contributions to these favorable outcomes throughout its 50 years.
During my eight-year term as ADB president, I realized that the ADB’s contributions are the fruit of two kinds of capital. The first kind of capital is the financial capital provided for member countries’ development projects. This financial capital has continued to reap major benefits, despite the many different needs and circumstances of the member countries. This fact tells us what the other capital has been. It is the ADB’s intellectual capital, consisting of underlying thought, specific knowledge, and creative ideas. The ADB has provided this type of capital to individual member countries so that their development projects are carefully planned and well managed.
Nevertheless, we face challenges for the further prosperity of Asia. Not least of these challenges is the region’s remaining poverty and inequality. All the events in this meeting will be good opportunities for us to learn something from the ADB’s intellectual capital and to help the ADB expand the capacity for creating that capital. Therefore, I believe this meeting will help establish a bridgehead for a prosperous Asia in the next five decades.