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Theme: “Shaping the Post-Covid Era: Asia’s Role in the Global Recovery”

(20-21st May 2021)

 

Bismillah-er-Rahman-er-Rahim,

Chairman Nikkei Corporation,

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I am honored to speak to you at this 26th Conference on the Future of Asia.

 

Asia is home to half of the world’s population. Asia’s future is the world’s future. This is where the most dynamic economic growth, social change, technological advances, and human development have taken place during the last 50 years. This is where the course of history will be decided in the 21st Century.

 

Today, Asia – and the world – are at an important juncture. We confront unprecedented challenges; but we also have exciting opportunities to advance progress and prosperity.

 

Our first priority, at present, is to confront and conquer the Covid-19 pandemic. This virus has created the worst global health, economic and social crisis in the past 100 years. It has infected hundreds of millions, killed over 3 million people, reversed economic growth, enlarged poverty, and worst of all created huge unemployment. Unless fully contained, it could create social chaos and threaten peace and security in Asia and elsewhere in the world.

No one will be safe unfortunately until everyone is safe. We must act collectively to ensure that the Covid vaccines are made available to everyone, everywhere, as soon as possible. The vaccine’s supply and distribution must be immediately expanded; patent rights waived; production ramped up, including in the developing world; and the COVAX facility fully extended and funded.

 

The virus has had the most severe impact on the poorest countries, but not just the poorest countries- the poor and all the countries. It is essential to provide low income countries, and others in financial distress, with the fiscal space and liquidity to respond to the impact of the pandemic, and revive growth and preserve social stability. I had proposed a 5-point agenda for debt relief, SDR creation and re-allocation, larger concessional finance, fulfillment of climate finance commitments, and an end to illicit financial flows from developing countries.

 

I am gratified that consensus is evolving on these essential actions. I welcome the extension of the G-20’s debt suspension initiative; the agreement to create $650 billion in new SDRs; to expand IDA funding; and expand the emergency support programmes of the Multilateral Development Banks. The recommendations of the FACTI Panel on illicit financial flows must also be implemented.

 

To ensure rapid recovery, we in Asia, and elsewhere, must keep economies open, revive disrupted supply chains, and resist protectionist temptations.

 

If Asian and other economies are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, we will need to invest massively in new and sustainable infrastructure – energy, transportation, housing, agriculture and industry. Both public and private investment should be mobilized to this end. The less developed countries must be helped to prepare a pipeline of sustainable infrastructure projects. To attract private investment, such projects will need to be “de-risked” through blended finance and investment guarantees and incentives.

 

We must also continue to mobilize science and technology to accelerate sustainable growth through targeted research on innovations and applications required to advance the sustainable development and environmental goals.

 

The rapid digitalization of economies is essential to ensure dynamic growth. The digital divide between advanced economies, where 87% of people are online, and the poorest countries, where only 19% have Internet access, must be bridged. Otherwise, the divergence in the growth trajectory of the advanced and developing economies will widen further. This will require expanded investment in digital hardware and software.

 

Resilient and dynamic economic growth, particularly in Asia, depends significantly on greater integration and physical connectivity. China’s Belt and Road Initiative provides the important pathway to such regional integration across the Asia-Pacific Region and beyond. We welcome proposals from Japan and others to support and finance “quality” infrastructure in Asia and elsewhere.

 

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative. It has generated economic activity, employment and will enhance bilateral and regional trade. Pakistan has invited all friendly countries to join in investing in the several economic and industrial zones being established under the CPEC umbrella. Pakistan looks toward serving as a geo-economic hub connecting the economies of Central Asia, South Asia, West Asia and beyond. These sub-regions are the areas which possess greater potential for dynamic new growth in Asia.

 

This potential cannot be fully unleashed until we resolve the outstanding conflicts and disputes in the region.

Pakistan has actively supported the peace process in Afghanistan. As foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan, it is imperative to redouble efforts to promote the peace process between the Afghan parties. As I have said over the years, there is no military solution to the conflict. Pakistan hopes that violence will be sharply reduced, and the Afghan parties will engage constructively to secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.

 

Pakistan desires peaceful, cooperative relations with all its neighbours, including India. But India must stop the human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and revisit the unilateral measures it took on 5 August 2019. It is essential that an enabling environment is created for dialogue to peacefully resolve the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the people of Kashmir.

 

We hope that other threats to peace and security in Asia will also be resolved. The situation in Palestine remains a matter of deep concern for everyone. The international community must take urgent actions to stop the Israeli attacks against Palestinians, prevent the desecration of holy places especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, and facilitate a just and lasting solution in line with relevant UN resolutions and the two-state vision.

 

Finally, we consider it vital to avoid great-power rivalry and tensions in the Asia-Pacific. There is ample room in Asia for the economic, trade and investment participation of all States. Yet, Asia must not become the theatre of tensions induced from without or within. The differences and disputes in Asia require Asian solutions on the basis of Asian values and interests. The Asia-Pacific, including the Indian Ocean, should become a Zone of Peace, an area of expanding cooperation and prosperity, through strict adherence to the principles of the UN Charter and the Bandung Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.

 

I thank you.

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