EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti attends high level meetings at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week for the annual alpine summit that is once again dominated by continued economic weakness and geopolitical tensions.
Seven years after the eruption of the global economic crisis, economies are still struggling to to find a path back to recovery.
Despite signs of an upturn in the United States, the eurozone that is so influential for much of the economic performance in the EBRD’s regions, has failed to rebound, burdened by high unemployment rates and deflation.
The other engine of growth in eastern Europe, Russia, is staring recession in the face, its economy battered by the impact of sanctions and a plunging oil prices.
As always the World Economic Forum in Davos has a formal agenda. This year it is meeting under the banner of “The New Global Context” and addressing four broad themes: Growth and Stability, Crisis and Cooperation, Society and Security and Innovation and Industry.
The economic growth outlook is usually the dominant informal talking point in Davos, although the recent attacks on the French satricial magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris will also mean that security issues are especially high on the agenda.
Sir Suma arrived in Switzerland just after the publication of new economic forecasts from the EBRD's Office of the Chief Economist which showed a worsening in the overall outlook following a halving of the oil price, a development that had not been on policy makers’ radar screens even six months ago.
Policy makers and experts at the Forum will debate the pros and cons of a weak oil price. But there are no clear cut winners and losers.
Even those EBRD countries of operations which are net importers of energy may see any benefits of lower oil costs wiped out by the impact of the Russian economic decline on trade links and remittances from workers.
And European Central Bank policy will leap into focus on Thursday, when the Eurozone’s monetary authorities are expected to announce yet further measures to rekindle growth in the region after price trends turned negative in the last month of 2014.
Sir Suma will be able to report on a strong year of support for emerging economies from the EBRD, after total investments rose to €8.9billion in 2014 from €8.5 billion, despite guidance from shareholders which meant no new projects were approved in Russia after July.
And he can also show how the four Davos global themes are aligned with the EBRD’s own priorities. Its high level of investments twinned with work to push forward reforms especially to improve the business climate are aimed at securing an economic recovery now and more stable growth in the future.
The EBRD actively promotes regional integration and co-operation via its projects, helping to forge cross border commercial links and to boost regional energy security.
A greater emphasis on inclusion in the EBRD’s projects and policies is aimed specifically at creating an environment that strengthens social cohesion by helping to create opportunities for all sections of society.
Innovation and industry was also the theme of the EBRD’s latest annual Transition Report “Innovation in Transition”, which demonstrated how innovation by firms could be a key driver of growth in emerging economies.