2014 ADB Annual Meeting: Notes on the 47th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank, Astana, Kazakhstan (May 2014)

Connectivity was the main theme of discussion at this year’s Annual Meeting of the Asia Development Bank held in Astana, Kazakhstan, from 2 to 5 May 2014. Participants told about the far-flung stopovers they had to make when flying in, and panelists talked about how Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian countries could benefit from a revived Silk Road linking Asia to Europe. Physical and financial challenges aside, Central Asia faces up to geo-political wrangling as both Russia and China push for strategic alliances. Russia has deep cultural ties and wants to re-engage the region following the collapse of the Soviet Union. China has security concerns at its western border and wants the region’s oil and gas. Energy sales to China are already the region’s largest export. However, Central Asia may yet find that financing and re-building new silk-road corridors do not help if politics, customs unions, red tape and corruption halt the traffic. Whether for social welfare or for infrastructure, the massive need for development finance in Asia makes the ADB as necessary as ever, notwithstanding the graduation of many regional economies to “middle-income” status. The ambition displayed by the ADB is undoubtedly also spurred by China’s plan to set up an “Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank”.