APRN Statement on ADB’s 55th Annual Governor’s Meeting 2022
The ADB held its 55th Annual Governor’s Meeting (AGM) in Manila, with the theme “Positioning Climate Resilient Green Economy for the Post COVID-19 World.” This gathering aims to discuss the financing of decarbonization and other infrastructure projects to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Ironically, the AGM is happening amid severe economic contraction, debt crisis, high inflation, and climate crisis among Asia Pacific nations.
The Philippines, the country hosting the meeting, recently endured a super typhoon and remains at the forefront of climate-vulnerable nations. After destructive rains and winds flattened vast swaths of agricultural lands, the country is now anticipating a price hike for consumer goods and services. The case of Pakistan is even more alarming as 15% of its population is still suffering from the recent catastrophic floods brought about by monsoon rains.
This is the reality for many countries of the Global South–not only are they in a state of fragile economic recovery, but they are also debt-ridden and worse, devastated by one climate catastrophe after another. Debt in the region has risen from 25 percent before the pandemic to 38 percent now. Twenty-five countries in the Asia Pacific are exposed to food, energy, and debt crisis.
In the Philippines, the external debt has reached $109 Billion while also confronting worsening climate emergencies. In Sri Lanka, external debt ballooned to $51 Billion with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 101 percent. The nation has been borrowing from international financial institutions since 1965 to pay for its deficit expenditure.The unpleasant truth is that Sri Lanka has received loans from the ADB in exchange for social service privatization and the opening up of the country’s domestic market. Now, on top of the social unrest, its people are enduring the consequences of the debt crisis through low wages, devalued currencies, and austerity measures on social services. This has been felt by the people with 30% of the population or 6.3 million Sri Lankans facing moderate to acute food insecurity.
Loans with conditionalities will be once more peddled in the name of climate financing and green recovery to the already debt-ridden low-income countries in the Asia Pacific. ADB’s program on green financing is more about loans than grants, replete with conditionalities, in the guise of promoting climate resilient and green economies, and development.
This is the all too familiar road to promised development that has consistently caused people and the environment more harm than good. After all, it was ADB that funded the $75 million-modernization of Point Pedro Harbor in Sri Lanka which led to hundreds of Tamil fisherfolk losing their livelihood, replaced by large-scale mechanized bottom trawlers which destroy irreplaceable marine life.
The unpleasant truth is that Sri Lanka has received loans from the ADB in exchange for social service privatization and the opening up of the country’s domestic market. Now, on top of the social unrest, its people are enduring the consequences of the debt crisis through low wages, devalued currencies, and austerity measures on social services.
Not surprisingly, ADB’s main donor contributors are also the world’s top carbon emitters alongside US, China and Japan. Making matters worse, transnational corporations are incentivized through carbon trading which allows them to further emit carbon dioxide. This flawed system has but helped companies evade accountability for their greenhouse gas emissions.
ADB is also complicit with autocratic and fascist regimes. Despite crackdowns, widespread killings, and detentions due to the military coup, ADB still backed projects worth $4.3 billion to the junta-led Myanmar government. The Bank also disbursed funding to Modi (India) and Duterte (Philippines) regimes over the COVID-19 pandemic response worth $4.3 and $5.09 billion respectively, despite mismanagement, repressive policies, and lockdowns.
ADB is not part of the solution but the problem.
The vulnerability for countries to climate change is of paramount concern for the development community and the people. It affects people lives and most marginalized of our society and all the more that we need real solutions that are led by the people.
Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) calls for a rights-based approach to address the climate issue by prioritizing people’s development and participation, which will benefit the communities and not for profit.
APRN, alongside the working people and people’s movements, stand against ADB. We reject ADB’s deceitful climate financing solutions and its attempt to hijack the conversation in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. We oppose any debt-driven climate financing instead, we demand the cancellation of odious debt and genuine people-led climate action.#
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