Representative from the Asian Development Bank Visits Campus

(From left to right): Sarah Ripp, IRIS Assistant Director for Programming & Communication; James Delehanty, IRIS Executive Director; Omar Dumdum, IRIS Project Assistant, Bart Edes, Asian Development Bank

by Omar Dumdum, IRIS Project Assistant

A top official from one of the world’s largest multilateral development banks visited UW-Madison on January 25 and gave a lecture on the changing landscape for development in the Asia-Pacific region.

Bart Édes, who sits as representative of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) North American Office, said that while Asia-Pacific countries are leading the world in terms of poverty reduction and improving other social development indicators, the region is still home to a large share of the world’s poor.

Apart from widespread poverty, other challenges in the region include urbanization, climate change, and an aging population.  He said that Asia’s rapidly developing cities continue to face inadequate basic services and environmental degradation.  And with increasing life expectancy, an aging population would lead to higher levels of old-age-related spending, especially on health insurance and pension benefits—social systems that continue to be weak in most developing countries in Asia. Mr Édes said that ADB works with developing countries to address these issues by providing loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments.

According to Édes, ADB, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has contributed significantly to the region’s historic global rise, and would continue to do so by supporting three major agendas: inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration.

He highlighted that ADB does not only focus on traditional infrastructure projects.  In his presentation, Édes mentioned that last year the institution approved financing for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects amounting to $4.5 billion out of the bank’s total approvals worth $28.9. He also explained that ADB relies on contributions from 67 member governments, 48 of which are from the Asia Pacific region.  The bank also receives funding from retained earnings from lending operations, repayment of loans and bonds issued on capital markets.

Édes’s talk was attended by IRIS faculty and staff, as well as students from International Studies 320 (Contemporary Issues: Interdisciplinary Approaches to South Asian Studies) taught by Lalita du Perron, Associate Director for the Center for South Asia.

Édes’s visit was part of ADB’s outreach mission to the US Great Lakes region.  Prior to the lecture, he met with officials of UW-Madison’s International Divison, led by Vice Provost and Dean Guido Podestá, to discuss potential partnerships between the two institutions.