President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) Jin Liqun on Wednesday called for more efforts to finance new infrastructure projects to digitize the Asian economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Digital infrastructure is quickly becoming one of the most important tools for structuring a balanced, post-pandemic world that keeps people connected and communities resilient,” Jin Liqun, president of the China-led development bank, said at the BEYOND Expo 2023 tech conference, held in Macao from May 10 – 12.
Please find below the transcript of the opening day speech from Jin Liqun, president and chair of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The following transcript has been edited for clarity:
It gives me great pleasure to be in Macao with you all at the 2023 BEYOND Expo. Over the last three years, Macao has grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic like other cities in China and the rest of the world.
The challenge is particularly formidable for Macau given its special economic feature. The tough situation could be regarded as a blessing in disguise because Macao has doubled down in its efforts to diversify its economy for the cause of more sustainable development. I am confident that more growth engines with powerful driving forces will be created in Macao moving forward. Please allow me to express my best wishes to the Macao SAR government and the Macao people. I wish you all the best.
The Pearl River Delta region serves as a natural hub of connectivity across Asia. People of ambition, people of grit and determination, and people of intellectual creativity, have long been attracted to the magnetic energy of this dynamic region. It is the focal point for the region’s development that hinges on its connectivity with the rest of China, Asia, and the world. The region has played a critical role in catalyzing and driving economic development that has catapulted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into prosperity. The spillover effect from this region has also contributed to the robust growth of China’s neighbors.
For those of you who don’t know much about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), I want to take advantage of this opportunity and introduce ourselves to you. Seven years ago, initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping, we began with 57 founding members. We now cover 160 economies with $100 billion in capital to finance the sustainable infrastructure for tomorrow. We represent the North and South, East and West, and developed and developing countries. We operate to the highest standards of global governance, currently called the AAA credit ratings.
At the BEYOND Expo, I see the dream of a more financially inclusive Asia. I see an Asia with better access to financial services, which can make it possible for people to climb out of poverty by obtaining credit to invest in their education, to take out insurance to run a business, and to weather the shocks of a changing climate. This is the dream of a financially inclusive Asia where all people are able to generate income and improve the quality of their lives.
There is no magic bullet for achieving the dream of financial inclusion across Asia. Our region is incredibly diverse with vast differences in per capita GDP and population size, a dizzy variety of cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity. We must understand the unique preferences and barriers that shape financial access in each of Asia’s local markets, and ensure that we continue to keep people moving forward in their education, health, and livelihood.
Our bank also recognizes one key constraint which affects access to financial inclusion in Asia, and indeed, access to your products as well, and that is digital access. Data and broadband have become essential necessities, fueling economies and flowing through the veins of our modern lives. Digital infrastructure is quickly becoming one of the most important tools to structure a balanced, post-pandemic world that keeps people connected and communities resilient.
For this reason, AIIB thinks about infrastructure a little bit differently. We go beyond traditional physical infrastructure, like roads, ports, airports, or power stations, to include more communications, digital, educational, and health infrastructure, or any infrastructure that opens new opportunities toward a more sustainable society and supports the growth of Asia’s digital economy.
Our bank targets financing towards two aspects of digital infrastructure. The first is infrastructure development that supports the expansion of a digital economy. For example, 5G towers, fiber cables, and data centers that are essential for bridging the digital divide and ensuring more equitable economic growth. The second is digitalizing existing infrastructure into smart infrastructure. That means we are thinking of not just towers and data centers, but also smart cities, smart roads, and smart vehicles. By thinking about digital infrastructure in a more holistic manner, our bank makes efforts to improve financial access across all of Asia.
Given the scale of the challenges, private sector capital is an essential partner to the mission of reducing Asia’s digital divide and improving financial inclusion. Public and private capital must work together to leverage our respective strengths. Our bank is laser-focused on scaling up our impact to achieve this vision while investing in opportunities that leverage even greater amounts of private capital toward infrastructure investment.
Though the road ahead is far from certain, Asia’s technology sector has already shown tangible benefits and awareness of financial inclusion. It is now our shared responsibility to ensure that we realize the true potential of a more prosperous and equitable Asia for all. More than seven years ago, when AIIB was set up, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that this bank must be operated to the highest possible standards and the best international practices. We follow President Xi’s instructions and that is why we are recognized by everybody in this world. Thank you very much.