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Speech Transcripts

February 13, 2019

Opening Remarks at ADB-JICA Meeting on Achieving Universal Health Coverage in Asia and the Pacific

ANA Intercontinental Hotel, Japan

Mr. Takehiko NAKAO, President of the Asian Development Bank,
H.E. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bounkong Syhavong, Minister of Health, Lao PDR,
Professor Keizo Takemi,
distinguished participants; ladies and gentlemen,
Good Morning.

I feel honored to deliver these opening remarks at this very important meeting. I am also delighted to see that there are participants from countries and organizations with which JICA has had long cooperative partnerships.

Today, I would like to share with you three key messages.

First, that UHC can be foundational to building equitable economic growth and a stable nation. As we have observed in some of countries, economic growth can in some circumstances expand income disparity during the early stages of economic development. In case of Japan, the income gap did not expand even during our rapid economic growth of our 1960s. In fact, the Gini coefficient after adjusting for the redistribution of social income remained stable during that time.

How did this happen? One of the frequently cited reasons for this is Japan's achievement of universal health insurance coverage in 1961. UHC helped keep income equality stable and also contributed to income re-distribution.

UHC also contributes to stabilizing societies and makes them more resilient to risks.

Currently, more than 50 % of the world population lives in Asia and the Pacific, but we continue to face three barriers to achieving Universal Health Coverage.

Communicable diseases remain a hardship. We have experienced that some infections, like SARS and the avian flu, can travel across borders, and the threat of transmitting multi-drug resistant Malaria can also be a challenge. There are countries that are still experiencing wild poliovirus transmission.

Aging is another very important part. The population in this region is aging more drastically than ever before, and the working-age population has shrunk considerably. This means the burden of non-communicable diseases has become more serious because elderly populations are more susceptible to contracting these illnesses.

The income disparity between the rich and the poor that has been brought on by these diseases is also alarming. Necessary costs to manage communicable diseases, as well as non-communicable diseases, place a disproportionate financial burden on poor families and can easily trigger a financial catastrophe for them.

I would like to therefore reiterate that achieving UHC can contribute to equitable economic growth and stability.

My second message is that we must fix financial gaps and information disparities to achieve Universal Health Coverage.

The expanding need for finance and the risk of debt sustainability is posing a double burden to nations and its people. The financial gap is serious even for countries in transition, and this needs to be addressed by both countries and international partners. Information disparities and knowledge-sharing must also be improved. We must strive to share information even under very resource-limited conditions.

I believe the experiences and lessons learned by Japan can help others avoid making the same mistakes that we experienced. Not pertaining to just Japan, we must also learn from other countries' efforts to achieve UHC, such as the experiences of the Philippines and Indonesia.

I recognize that sharing all of our experiences and lessons, whether successful or unsuccessful, is one of our responsibilities in this region to achieve UHC.

Lastly, we should strengthen collaborations between ADB and JICA.

I would like to stress the complementing roles that JICA and ADB can play, such as filling financial and information gaps, to achieve UHC.

JICA and ADB are two organizations that have the largest number of development projects and experiences in this region. ADB has always played a significant role, and its contribution to the development of Asia and the Pacific has been enormous.

Given this context, enhancing collaborations between JICA and ADB in the health sector is the key to realizing the achievement of UHC in partner countries. JICA's knowledge and experience gathered from all around the world has enabled us to hold a comparative advantage in developing human resources, enhancing capacity, and promoting south-south and triangular cooperation. Collaboration with ADB can be mutually complemental to maximizing the use of each organization's advantages. I am sure that such collaborations will serve as valuable opportunities for realizing the health and well-being of this region.

In May 2017, ADB and JICA signed a MOU to establish a strategic partnership to strengthen health security and promote UHC in a rapid aging Asia and Pacific region. Today's joint event is a part of various collaborations and partnerships based on this MOU. It gives us a great opportunity to learn directly from the officials who engage on the frontlines of policy regarding health sector development.

It is my hope that this meeting will promote further cooperation between JICA and ADB, under President Nakao's strong leadership, in promoting the health and well-being of people in the region.

I would like to conclude my remarks by reaffirming our commitment to achieve UHC. Our commitment will be delivered by maximizing our collaboration with other partners such as The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance as well as the private sector and international and local NGOs.

I look forward to making this event a great opportunity to share our respective wisdom and our experiences.

Thank you very much.


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