One of the major topics the Annual Meeting aims to cover is mobilizing private sector resources in meeting Asia’s huge infrastructure needs. The civil society panel discussed several ways to improve ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department (PSOD) implementation of “safeguards compliance and commitment to informative disclosure.”
The Civil Society Panel session include Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development Deputy Coordinator Mae Buenaventura, Aksi! Indonesia Policy Advisor Titi Soentoro, Joe Athialy from the Center of Financial Accountability, and ADB Private Sector Operations Director General Michael Barrow.
Facilitated by NGO Forum on ADB Executive Director Rayyan Hassan, the forum centered on the ADB’s Strategy 2020 of expanding “assistance for private sector development and operations to 50 percent of annual operations.”
Panelists shared their views, experiences, and fears on how large-scale infrastructures are causing the local communities. Buenaventura set the tone for the whole session by enumerating key issues such as ADB’s strengthening focus on energy infrastructure and support for conventional energy which involves oil coal and gas, the need to address climate crisis, and direction of project expansion.
Soentoro talked about the Sarulla Geothermal Power generation Project in North Sumatra, Indonesia. She emphasizes on the need to provide clear and meaningful information not only about the project’s impacts, but also its potential risks.
Soentoro continues by stating the negative effects of the project to the locals and their environment. “Locals are complaining that they are unable to sleep anymore during nights because of the noise. They have complained to the company, but there was no response,” she reported. Soentoro also explains that the vibration from the ground affects the biodiversity of the area.
The Indonesia Infrastructure Financing Facility, a company project to increase private investment into infrastructure projects was another topic that Soentoro mentioned. She questions the evaluations and inputs from previous projects done by ADB.
Barrow explains that ADB is indeed focusing on renewable and clean energy through financial intermediaries. “Billions of dollars are allocated to address the problem of climate change, most of it used on renewable, solar, wind, and geothermal energy,” he presses.
ADB’s attention on The Public Private Partnership (PPP) was also mentioned. The Office of PPP helps governments “use the financing, efficiency and quality of the private sector for project that benefit society.” Some members of audience argue that PPP does not work in their respective countries.
Barrow sites that there are benefits of partnering with the private sector. He also expounds that private sectors have the “potential to improve efficiency as well as asset and service quality” through innovative solutions, more transparent organizational structures, and investment in new technologies.
Closing the session, suggestions were made with regard to how policies and initiatives of ADB should be directed toward development. Athialy poses, “ADB needs to learn from the experiences of people because projects also have economical risks because they involve the livelihood of humans.” Soentoro concludes by pointing out the importance of conducting more study on impacts of geothermal energy to people and environment since ADB is highly promoting geothermal as an alternative for clean energy.