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On the 15 April 1991, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development opened its doors for business for the first time.
It was conceived by its founders as ‘a new and unique structure of co‑operation’ for a continent still recovering from the shock of the collapse of communism.
Its mission then, as now, was to further progress towards market-oriented economies and promote private and entrepreneurial initiative.
So, at the age of 30, how is the EBRD doing? What are the challenges for its future? What has the EBRD taught some of its former staff?
This special discussion brought together four EBRD Chief Economists, past and present, who shared their insights into the Bank and its influence on the countries where it works, global development and the world of international financial institutions.
The inaugural Chief Economist of Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, Erik Berglof, talked about the technical banking skills which are unique to the EBRD as well as its knowledge of its regions. These are particularly important as the Bank helps them overcome the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
“Technical skills, structuring projects, infrastructure or financial… All those skills we assume in the models, but when you live with them on a daily basis…, it is both humbling and reassuring,” he said.
“At this point most economies are still on life support. Nobody knows what the real state of the economy is… Then we will see the first firms fighting for survival. And the true test will be: will the firms close to the governing elites be bailed out?,” said the current EBRD Chief Economist Beata Javorcik in a stark warning of the challenges ahead.
Lord Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government and Chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment stressed some positives that the coronavirus pandemic has brought about, such as people being less averse to change and a unified willingness to build back better.
Sergei Guriev, now Professor of Economics at Science Po in Paris, highlighted the importance of digitalisation for inclusive recovery, especially when some of the EBRD regions enjoy only partial internet coverage.