Speech Transcripts

May 4, 2017

Speech at Host Country Seminar at the 50th Annual Meeting of ADB's Board of Governors

InterContinental Yokohama Grand, Yokohama, Japan

Mr.Minoru KIHARA, State Minister of Finance; Mr.Takehiko NAKAO, President of Asian Development Bank; distinguished participants; ladies and gentlemen, Good Morning.

As the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, I feel honored to deliver a few remarks at this very important seminar covering the topic of aging in Asia. I am delighted to see participants from countries and organizations in which JICA has had long cooperative partnerships.

Japan has become a "super-aging society" earlier than in any other country with the highest proportion of elderly citizens in the world. Currently one fourth of the population is above the age of 65. In 2060, those 65 and above are expected to become 40% of the population.

As we are all aware, the issue of aging has become a pressing development concern, especially in Asia. The predicted increase in the aging population requires preparedness in health financing. From Japan's past experiences, we learned that costs for medical and nursing care increases dramatically as aging accelerates. In the same vein, countries on track for large aging populations should be prepared for the difficulties, as well as the necessities, of establishing a suitable framework to ensure countries' financial sustainabilities. As the "pioneer" country of aging, Japan is ready to share its experiences, and lessons learned, with other countries that will face similar situations in the near future.

But, we should not focus on a negative side of aging alone. Most of all it is good for many people to be able to live long. In addition to that, elderly people can have many positive impacts on our communities, and vice versa.

For reference, I will share a story of a Japanese man who lived 250 years ago and made great contributions to the development of our country.

In the mid-18th century when the average life expectancy was still in the mid-40s, a Japanese merchant, Mr. Tadataka INO, retired from his business at age of 50, started to learn astronomy for five years and, at 55, he began to draw an accurate map of the entire country of Japan for the first time in our history. From there he spent 17 years, until the age of 72, surveying Japan's geography on foot. This led to the creation of one of the most accurate maps in any country of the world in those days.

What kept him motivated for so many years? For one thing, his passion for discovering the size of the earth and the exact shape of Japan, this was what motivated his geographical survey. For another, Japanese society back then was free and generous enough for elderly like him to have such a passion.

This is just one example demonstrating how elderly people can be a significant driving force for developing and improving societies. As long as elderly people actively lead their lives with motivation and determination, societies can continue to sustainably evolve even in a super-aging society. At the same time, the story shows how much society matters when it comes to motivating elderly to live their lives to the fullest.

In order to build sustainable aging societies, JICA has carried out various cooperation activities, primarily in Asia. In Thailand, a long-term care service model has now been introduced at the national level, and this experience will be widely shared with other Asian countries. Sri Lanka and Vietnam, for example, are very much interested in engaging in dialogues with JICA to introduce and promote proper policies and institutions to prepare for their aging populations.

One of JICA's cooperation priorities on aging is to introduce an "Integrated Community Care System" in developing countries. This system will integrate health promotion, disease prevention, medical care, and social participation at the community level. This will build the society where elderly become eager to live actively. This approach will also reflect Japan's support for the people-centered concept of"human security" that ensures individuals can live happily and with dignity. This concept has been long promoted in Japan as a guiding principle of its development cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, the ADB and JICA will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to promote Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Asia. UHC benefits all populations at all ages, including the elderly. In Asia, the elderly lead their lives with dignity and with the motivation to strengthen their contribution to their communities. And so I am sure the cooperation between the two organizations will make our respective efforts more effective to achieve UHC across the continent.

As I conclude my remarks, I look forward to making this event a great opportunity to share our respective wisdom and our experiences. JICA is committed and ready to continue supporting the countries' efforts to transform our aging societies to become a beacon of hope for our future.

Thank you very much.

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