The Philippines has renewed its call for the just and equitable distribution of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines to ensure the access of lower-income and developing countries to these life-saving medical interventions amid the prolonged pandemic.
Represented by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the Philippines said in its Country Statement at the recent 54th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that the Covid-19 pandemic “did not only widen the inequalities within societies but amplified the disparities between countries” as shown by the uneven allocation of the vaccines in favor of developed economies.
Dominguez said developed economies were not only able to provide higher levels of financial support to their people as stimulus measures, but were also able to undertake their mass inoculations at a faster pace than the developing countries because of their vast financial resources.
“It is only through the just and equitable distribution of vaccines can the world achieve a safer recovery from this pandemic. The Philippines, therefore, supports the strong call for developed countries, multilateral institutions, and global organizations to join forces in ensuring the accessibility of these life-saving doses to lower-income economies,” said Dominguez, the governor for the Philippines in the ADB Board.
Dominguez said that after the mass inoculations against Covid-19, the ADB will play a critical role “in the herculean task of ensuring the sustainable and resilient recovery of developing economies” and must effectively assist them to bounce back as fast as the high-income and developed countries.
Moreover, the ADB should help member-countries harness the potentials of the digital economy to enhance trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, strengthen health care systems, boost social safety nets, and deepen financial markets through green and sustainable finance, he said.
“We particularly stand at a new period in human history dominated by information technology and artificial intelligence. At the Asian Development Bank annual meeting in May 2018, I called on the bank to increase its focus and expertise on this area. I also suggested that the bank seek advice on this modernization effort from senior digital technology professionals in the Asia-Pacific region. There is no better time than now to vigorously pursue this initiative,” he added.
Dominguez said that with developing countries having to work ceaselessly to return to their pre-Covid levels of growth and equity, they would need intensified assistance from multilateral financial institutions like the ADB for them to do so.
Developing countries will need access to more financial resources to help boost health care systems and build resiliency against new virus outbreaks; support the recovery of sectors that were severely affected by the contagion; and invest in infrastructure and human capital development, especially in the education of their youth, he said.
Dominguez said developing countries also have to “retool” their economies to adjust to the new challenges brought about by the pandemic, which would require accelerating the utilization of digital technologies and substantially increasing investments in renewable and clean energy to address climate change and ensure a sustainable recovery.
“In order to assist developing countries to meet new challenges, the Asian Development Bank must level up. Specifically, there is a need for the bank to seriously consider a substantial expansion in its loan portfolio in the next five-year period to support its member-countries’ ecovery, even if this brings forward the need for a capital increase,” he said.
He added the ADB cannot perform its critical role of assisting in the sustainable and resilient recovery of developing countries if it maintains a “business-as-usual” approach.