Skip to Main Navigation
StatementSeptember 5, 2023

Remarks by World Bank President Ajay Banga at the ASEAN Leaders Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning.

Before I begin, I’d like to thank our hosts – the Indonesian Government and people – for their hospitality and the work that has gone into this Summit.

Also, I’d like to thank the ASEAN community for welcoming me so warmly.

This is only my third month as World Bank President, and I have been overwhelmed by the support, encouragement, and counsel that I have received.

The World Bank was founded after a crucible of war and was designed to promote the economic foundations of peace – but on the bedrock of genuine international cooperation.

We are gathered in Indonesia, a nation that embodies this collective spirit. It’s national motto – Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – means “unity in diversity.”

Indonesia is a country on the move. Life expectancy is increasing… poverty is decreasing… and GDP is rising.

ASEAN has been a bright spot amidst gloomy global economic projections. The World Bank estimates the region will achieve at least 4 percent growth this year, helping seven million people escape poverty.

And while many are on the cusp of entering a new phase – this hard-won progress is fragile.

We are all too familiar with the global community’s challenges – retreating progress in our fight against poverty, stubborn inflation, heavy debt burdens, a fledgling pandemic recovery, a crippling war on the borders of Europe, and an existential climate crisis.

Beyond these headwinds, you’re wrestling with declining productivity and the risk of falling exports from de-globalization.

But just as we celebrate the progress and resilience of the region, we must acknowledge the costs.

Throughout ASEAN, forests are shrinking, emissions are accelerating, and fresh water is being depleted rapidly.

The simple but hard truth in ASEAN – and globally – is that we cannot endure another period of emission-intensive growth.

We must find a way to finance a different world, one where climate resilience is strong, pandemics are manageable, food is abundant, and fragility and poverty are defeated.

The world is turning to the World Bank for solutions – demanding that it evolve – and we are responding.

A new vision is required that is worthy of our shared aspirations.

In my view, the vision for the World Bank is simple: To create a world free of poverty – on a livable planet.

This vision will not be achieved without a new playbook that leads to better quality of life and jobs – one that is inclusive of everyone, resilient to shocks, sustainable, and advanced through partnerships.

We are working to identify new efficiencies that will allow us to do more in less time – incentivizing output, not input – ensuring our focus is not limited to money out the door but how many girls are in school, tons of carbon reduced, and jobs created. Working to become an institution that is more responsive, more accessible, and less bureaucratic.

Our commitment to impact is not academic. It is driven by doing what is right, not what is convenient. Just as your journey requires doing what is hard.


If ASEAN is to realize its potential and become the epicenter of growth, we must focus on three areas:

First, we need to pursue structural reforms and eliminate lingering barriers to competition, investment, and trade. Restrictive policies and stringent requirements constrain growth and innovation, limiting the private sector’s interest in investing – putting jobs out of reach.

Second, we must invest in people.

This means improving the quality of education, skilling, and health systems to help as many as possible to take advantage of the new opportunities created by trade and technology. Any nation that has a ready workforce is infinitely more attractive for investment.

Progress is achievable.

Through just one project in Lao, we have increased enrollment of girls in school from one in ten, to six in ten – helping 53,000 girls and counting.

Third, the economic growth we’re working toward must be sustainable.

Those who work fastest to invest in renewable energy, transition away from carbon-intensive electricity, and optimize agriculture production will be ahead of the game; and best positioned to welcome companies pursuing supply chains that meet critical environmental and social obligations.

Working together, this is possible.

Right here in Indonesia we are doubling down on solar power investments and expect to bring clean electricity to 2 million people, while lowering the cost of power generation by 20 percent.

In Vietnam, a sustainable rice farming project reduced greenhouse gas emissions and helped over 1 million farmers save money on fertilizer, pesticides, and water use.

But digitization and digital development must flow through it all – enabling efficiencies, expanding education, advancing transparency, and generating jobs.

We have every reason to be optimistic about our future and the future of ASEAN. The ingredients we need are scalability, replicability, and will power.

But to hold it together we need one another.

We need unity, we need cooperation. We need the spirit of Indonesia, the ASEAN way, and to re-capture the motivation that breathed life into the World Bank 78 years ago.

The World Bank must be a refuge from inefficient multilateralism, geopolitical competition, and the mistrust among nations. It must be a sanctuary for cooperation, collaboration, and creativity.

If we can build that Bank, we can do big things together. We can eradicate poverty on a livable planet.


    loader image


    loader image