Geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific: An ADB Perspective
from RealEcon and Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies

Geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific: An ADB Perspective

Kaveh Sardari

As part of the CFR RealEcon Roundtable Series, Scott Morris, vice president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), explained how the ADB supports countries in the Indo-Pacific region amid shifting geopolitics.

May 2, 2024 3:03 pm (EST)

Kaveh Sardari
Article
Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

On the sidelines of the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, Matthew P. Goodman, director of CFR’s RealEcon initiative, hosted Scott Morris, vice president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), for a roundtable on “Geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific: An ADB Perspective.” Development policy experts from various sectors attended the roundtable and engaged in discussions on topics ranging from the ADB’s mandate and mission in the Indo-Pacific to collaboration with other multilateral development banks (MDBs).

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Morris started by providing an overview of the ADB’s current operations. A large share of the bank’s financing activity goes to Southeast Asia, with a significant number of grants issued to the Pacific Islands countries after years of engagement. The ADB also uses its Asian Development Fund to provide grants to the ADB’s most vulnerable members and supports the people of Afghanistan and Myanmar through humanitarian partners. Recently, ADB capital management reforms unlocked $100 billion in new funding that will support the bank’s climate finance ambitions.

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Morris also addressed constraints facing the ADB. Unlike other MDB’s, such as the World Bank, capital is not currently a binding constraint for the ADB. Nonetheless, Morris pointed to challenges in responding to developing countries’ needs, including ensuring adequate concessional and grant resources and working within a smaller staffing footprint relative to other major MDBs.

Since his appointment as ADB vice president in September 2023, Morris said he has been struck by the unique governance characteristics of the ADB compared to other MDBs. While all major shareholders—the United States, China, India, Japan, and others—are active, Japan plays a particular leadership role in the bank. In addition, the ADB is one of the few international organizations in which Taipei,China has a seat. And the resident board of the bank—particularly representatives of leading shareholders—is active in the bank’s day-to-day operations.

Morris also touched on the ADB’s engagement with other MDBs. He said the new dynamic leadership at the World Bank under President Ajay Banga has facilitated greater cooperation among MDBs. In addition, he noted that the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has been placing its money into ADB projects.

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In a final question from Goodman about what role the ADB plays in American leadership in the international economy, Morris expressed hope for greater understanding in Washington that the ADB is the premier development institution in the Indo-Pacific and that U.S. government officials see the value of consulting with the ADB on matters pertaining to American economic leadership in the region.

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