Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday urged the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to set up a regional hub for South Asia in New Delhi so that the majority of proposals could be processed speedily.
Addressing the ADB Board of Governors here, Jaitley said there was need to look at processes and procedures for which more could be done to keep pace with the aspirations of the people.
"For instance, time required to approve a proposal as well as the time lag between approval and disbursement of loans can be further reduced. I am sure you all would agree that speed is what will keep ADB ahead of others. In this context, I would strongly urge the bank to set up a regional hub in New Delhi for South Asia region so that a majority of the proposals could be processed there speedily," Jaitley said.
The Finance Minister, who is India's Governor on the ADB Board, is here to attend the annual meeting of the Board of Governors on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
He said such hubs could be established in other regions too. "Many countries in the region have very good systems for social and environmental safeguards with a robust legal and regulatory framework."
For quite some time, he said, India has been requesting ADB to adopt Country Systems in this regard and noted that the bank has recently adopted this in the case of Power Grid Corporation of India.
"While I wholeheartedly welcome this move, let me stress that we need to adopt Country Systems quickly rather than being contented with adoption of Agency System. This will help reduce delays in the run-up to project approvals to a great extent," he said.
Jaitley said that with the merger of Asian Development Fund (ADF) and Ordinary Capital Resources (OCR) with effect from January 1, 2017, ADB's envelope of available resources has grown bigger and more resources could be made available for Regional Cooperation and Integration (RCI) initiative of the bank.
"I am happy to say that as part of RCI initiative, last month, the vision document of South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC), was launched in New Delhi in the presence of Finance Ministers of the region," he said.
"I hope the new vision document ‘Strategy 2030', which the bank is preparing, would include the measures that I and other esteemed colleagues have suggested during these deliberations."
Referring to the ADB's avowed objective of eliminating poverty from the Asia-Pacific region, the Minister said that in addition to sectors like energy, urban development and transportation, there was need to focus more on affordable renewable energy.
"In the area of urban development, especially in the sector of drinking water and sanitation, the major challenges remain in the realm of user charges and financial sustainability of urban bodies."
The bank needs to promote models that will focus on these challenges, he added.
"In almost all the developing member countries, a vast majority of the rural populace depends on agriculture and other allied activities. There is a need for greater focus on climate resilient agriculture, better farm production technologies, improved value chain management and creation of better marketing infrastructure for the farm produce," Jaitley said.
ADB also needs to focus more on social infrastructure like health and education, he added.
"I am happy to say that, to a large extent, the bank has kept its processes and procedures upto date with the demands of the time," the Finance Minister noted.
Jaitley is on a three-day official visit to Japan. He will also participate in the spring meeting of the Institute of International Finance (IIF).
He will also attend the Investors' Round Table Session organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Kotak Bank in Tokyo.