Honorable President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Jin Liqun, representatives from member countries and other international organizations, distinguished guests from home and abroad,
Congratulations on the opening of the 2nd Annual Meeting of the AIIB Board of Governors. On behalf of the Korean people, I warmly welcome all the participants from around the world. This annual meeting is the second since the establishment of AIIB last year. This is the first annual meeting to be held outside the region where the headquarters is situated. I am very gratified that Korea is hosting this significant event.
It is also a personally meaningful gathering because it is the first international event that I have attended since I took office as President last month.
Jeju, an island with a unique nature, history and culture, is a source of pride for the Korean people. It is also an environmental treasure trove recognized by the world. UNESCO designated Jeju as a World Natural Heritage Site, a Biosphere Reserve and a Global Geopark. I hope you will enjoy the beautiful landscape of Jeju and experience Korean culture to the full during your stay here.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
The world today is paying attention to the dynamism of Asia. Asia accounts for 60 percent of the total population of the world and more than one-third of global GDP. It is the largest market in the world and also a crucial manufacturing region. At the same time, Asia is the region with an immense growth potential that will lead the global economy in the future.
The economy is not the only factor. Asia is extraordinarily crucial in terms of politics. The development of democracy and political stability in Asian countries constitute important elements in world peace and security.
Asia is the cradle of human civilization. Over a very long period of time, diverse aspects of human life and culture unfolded across the vast continent. Countless time-honored histories and stories of Asia are a treasure trove of inspiration for people living in the 21st century.
Though a late starter in the modernization process, Asia has its own strength. It is the power of culture and history as well as diversity. Today, humanity is being confronted with a variety of challenges stemming from politics, security, the economy and the environment. I believe that solidarity and cooperation among Asian countries will make it possible to tackle various challenges facing us today. With such a belief, I have communicated by phone with many Asian heads of state and government since my inauguration and sent special envoys to India, Australia and some ASEAN countries.
By bringing out the best of Asia’s strengths, humanity will be able to overcome imminent challenges and make yet another leap forward. For this reason, I place high expectations on the AIIB. There is no doubt that it will play a great role in connecting people, linking regions and opening a better future beyond today’s limits.
This annual meeting is being held under the theme “Sustainable Infrastructure.” Investments in infrastructure have thus far driven Asia’s high-flying economic growth. Infrastructure investment itself helped create jobs, and such infrastructure as power and water supplies, communications and transportation has served as the foundation for advances in manufacturing and other relevant industries.
The building of such infrastructure is still crucial in Asia. It is intended for eradicating poverty and further expanding economic development. It is all the more urgent for Asian developing countries, especially impoverished nations.
What is also necessary in response to the coming era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the new ICT infrastructure construction, including more accessible wireless internet connection, networks for the Internet of Things and smart highways. Only when they are in place will it be possible for Asia to continue greater growth.
It is known that the annual demand for infrastructure investment in Asia`s developing nations over the next two decades will amount to US$1.7 trillion. Given the high demand and available finances of each country that have deteriorated in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the significance and role of the AIIB, which was founded to support infrastructure expansion in Asia, is all the more important.
Launched last year with 57 founding members, the AIIB has achieved a lot within a short period of one and a half years. The number of member countries has now increased to 77, including non-regional members. Today, I heard that three more countries would join the body. As such, it has become an international bank both in name and substance. The bank has so far provided US$2.5 billion in loans for 16 projects in developing countries, thereby making significant contributions to the expansion of infrastructure in those countries. I look forward to the AIIB working together with other multilateral development banks to render more efficient support for the economic development of developing countries.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the Chinese Government for its leading role in launching the AIIB and to President Jin Liqun for his ceaseless endeavors and significant contributions to its stable launch.
Distinguished ladies and gentleman,
The direction of infrastructure investment pursued by the AIIB is in line with the Korean Government`s approach to economic growth. Now I am going to put forth directions for future infrastructure investment.
First, infrastructure investment has to contribute to sustainable growth. Up until now, infrastructure investment has made contributions to the economic growth of each country. In the process, however, it has also damaged the environment.
Korea has also undergone such costly experiences, and it has done a lot of soul-searching on what went wrong. Development that damages the environment will undoubtedly turn out to incur even higher costs in the future. Environmental issues in one country affect neighboring countries as well. Therefore, eco-friendly development and cooperation among countries are crucial.
It is fortunate that the international community has recently been building a consensus on the need to develop sustainable infrastructure that is environmentally friendly and can contribute to resolving environmental problems. Countries are also engaging in discussions on how to work together.
Korea welcomes this move by the international community and is coming up with a plan for active participation. By 2030, it plans to increase the ratio of power generation through new and renewable energy sources to 20 percent of the total. We are going to reduce coal-fired power generation and move towards a nuclear phase-out. The use of eco-friendly cars such as electric vehicles will also be expanded. We will actively share our experiences in building sustainable infrastructure, including new and renewable energy power generation and eco-friendly energy towns, with AIIB member countries.
Second, infrastructure investment has to contribute to inclusive growth. In order to achieve sustainable development, all members of society should be able to carefully consider and support each other and grow together. Basic infrastructure for tap water, sanitation and electricity are fundamental and essential elements of a decent life. Transportation and communications infrastructure makes contributions to balanced growth and social cohesion through interregional exchanges. Infrastructure investment has to lead to well-balanced development and shared prosperity by reducing the disparities between regions and countries.
In the process of making decisions on future investments, it will be important to take into consideration whether the facilities to be developed will be easy for everyone to access and be of help to neglected people, regions and countries. I believe this is the first step for inclusive growth.
Third, investment in infrastructure should be able to contribute to job creation. Countries around the world, including Korea, have been facing the crisis characterized by jobless growth and the shortage of jobs for young people. Placing a people-centered economy at the core of its economic policy, the new Administration in Korea is pursuing the creation of decent jobs as a top priority.
Investment in infrastructure can create jobs. Architectural and civil engineering works themselves accompanied by the establishment of infrastructure can create jobs. Jobs can also be created in manufacturing and the service industries whose development is based on infrastructure. Building infrastructure for information and communications technology in the years to come is expected to contribute to the creation of new industries and jobs. In particular, it will provide new economic opportunities to the disadvantaged, including young adults, women and seniors, who have had fewer chances of getting decent jobs.
The Republic of Korea has accomplished rapid economic growth in a short period of time. The Miracle on the Han River was built upon an aggressive investment in infrastructure. The transportation of people and goods has become faster due to the construction of expressways and high-speed trains. In the process, a range of manufacturing industries, including the automotive and steel industries, have also developed together. Regional cities have advanced, and exchanges between different regions have expanded.
Many of you must have arrived here via the Incheon International Airport. The airport is a good symbol of the infrastructure powerhouse that is Korea. The airport won the world’s best airport award for a record 12th consecutive year this year.
Korea is sharing its accumulated experience and know-how with neighboring countries in Asia. The experience in building expressways led to the construction of the Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway in Vietnam. The experience in building 31 bridges connecting the northern and southern sides of Han River was the basis for constructing the Panguil Bay Bridge in Mindanao, the Philippines. The know-how in building the Incheon International Airport will be used in constructing an airport in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
Korea has achieved both economic development and democracy in just half a century, rising above the ruins of war. It is the first country after the Second World War to develop from an aid recipient to a donor nation. Recently, Korea has overcome unprecedented political upheavals through the power of the people.
Our economic and social development experiences will provide developing countries in Asia with substantive help. Based on the experiences so far, Korea will become a partner that accompanies developing countries in Asia in their economic and social development from now on. I promise that, as a bridge between developing and developed countries, Korea will fulfill its role and duties.
In ancient times, when the Silk Road opened, the West and the East were connected, markets were created, and cultures were exchanged. The last stop on the Silk Road to the Far East of the Asian Continent is the Korean Peninsula. The severed railroad that connected Seoul and Sinuiju is a symbol of the still festering reality of the Korean Peninsula. When South and North Koreas are connected with railroads, the new overland and maritime Silk Road will be completed. Most of all, I hope that peace on the Korean Peninsula will contribute to the stability and unity of Asia. I sincerely ask all of you to take an interest and join together with us.
I hope that this annual meeting will be a meaningful venue for in-depth discussions and will achieve practical results on the direction of future investments and policies of the AIIB. By expanding investment in infrastructure, I hope that all members will be able to contribute to economic growth in Asia. As a key member of the AIIB, Korea will also do its best to increase its contribution in material and human resources.
Finally, I express my gratitude to the AIIB, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and Jeju provincial government officials for their hard work in preparing for the annual meeting.
Thank you very much.