The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is realigning its operations to emphasise inclusiveness, build resilience, and strengthen support for middle-income countries, according to a midterm review report of its Strategy 2020, ADB’s long-term strategic framework.

“The Asia-Pacific region is changing fast — and so must ADB,” said ADB president Takehiko Nakao.

The region continues to face a huge poverty challenge. More than 700 million people live below the extreme poverty line of $1.25-per-day. The report showed that extreme poverty in the region can be eliminated by 2025.

However, this may not be enough. Poverty in Asia and the Pacific is understated on the current poverty threshold of $1.25-per-day, Nakao noted, emphasising that the threshold is too low for poor populations in the region to subsist.

More than 1.6 billion people live on less than $2-a-day and are highly vulnerable to job loss, health problems, prolonged recession, inflation, crop failure, and environmental dangers. Inequalities within and between countries in the region are also increasing.

At the same time, a majority of ADB’s 45 developing member countries are already middle-income countries. All but two of them are expected to reach middle-income status by 2020.

“The challenge for ADB is to help developing member countries eradicate remaining poverty, support greater inclusiveness to address inequalities, and become more relevant and effective in middle-income countries,” Nakao said.

The report, approved by ADB’s Board of Directors yesterday, identifies 10 strategic priorities. The first seven priorities seek to sharpen and rebalance ADB operations and strengthen responsiveness to the changing business environment. The remaining three aim to increase ADB’s capacity and effectiveness. Poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth; environment and climate change; regional cooperation and integration; infrastructure development; middle-income countries; private sector development and operations; knowledge solutions; financial resources and partnerships; delivering value for money; and organising to meet new challenges are the key priorities.

The report reconfirmed that ADB will continue to focus on infrastructure development, as infrastructure plays a critical role in reducing poverty and promoting inclusive growth. ADB will also double its investments in health and education, sectors that enable better access to opportunities for all.

Middle-income countries will need to become more innovative and raise their productivity to avoid middle-income traps. To better serve its client countries, ADB itself has to become more innovative, Nakao said. The report outlines ADB’s new approaches in mobilising resources, simplifying processes, strengthening staff skills, and using information and communications technology.

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