Successful diversification to propel Central Asia’s growth

By Anton Usov

Beijing, China, by night

EBRD President opens Central Asia Investment Forum in Beijing

Successful diversification is the way forward for the economies of Central Asia as the region reassumes its ancient role as a bridge joining Europe with the Far East, EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti said at the opening of the Central Asia Investment Forum in Beijing today.

“I am optimistic about Central Asia’s future,” President Chakrabarti stressed.

“The opportunities for you to be involved in the success story that is Central Asia have, to my mind, never looked more attractive,” he told investors in a speech to the forum.

With an overall growth rate of 4.6 per cent forecast this year, Central Asia is growing faster than any of the regions where the EBRD operates. For a long time economic development was mostly reliant on the region’s abundant resources in oil and gas. But today this is changing and President Chakrabarti stated: “There is much more to Central Asia than traditional carbon energy.”

He listed strengthening the financial sector, pioneering renewables, promoting energy efficiency, modernising infrastructure, boosting small businesses and advancing the cause of inclusion as key tasks for the region’s further development.

In this the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could be a “significant factor in helping the EBRD and the countries where we invest build the open market economies our mandate commits us to, as well as delivering the Sustainable Development Goals we want to achieve by 2030,” President Chakrabarti said.

The EBRD expects BRI investment in infrastructure to boost growth in the Central Asian countries and “provided Belt and Road investments meet the highest standards, such progress will translate very quickly into real improvements in people’s lives and wellbeing,” he added.

The EBRD’s 2018 Central Asia Investment Forum in Beijing opened with a striking video highlighting how much the region has to offer investors – and how different it is from the popular imagination.

More videos

The EBRD is the largest single investor in Central Asia with a total investment of US$ 14 billion to date. Through its network of local offices the Bank has built a strong presence in the region which combines financing with policy reform.

For instance, the EBRD is financing wind and solar power in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, providing credit lines and empowering female entrepreneurs in Tajikistan, piloting a cultural heritage programme in Uzbekistan to promote sustainable tourism, enhancing access to health care in the Kyrgyz Republic and helping small businesses in Turkmenistan.

At the same time its work on policy reform includes areas such as improving the business climate, safeguarding client integrity and compliance with international anti-corruption standards, developing skills among the local population, and encouraging diversity in the workforce and inclusion more generally.

The Central Asia Investment Forum in Beijing is hosted by the EBRD and the People’s Bank of China, and also supported by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

President Chakrabarti underlined the EBRD’s commitment to the region by saying: “the EBRD is leading the way here. We do so in partnership with the Belt and Road Initiative, the European Union, other multilateral development banks and investors the world over.”

The event brought together over 600 attendees, among them numerous international and Chinese business representatives as well as government officials from the region.

Discussion panels covered a wide range of topics including the financial sector, the Belt and Road Initiative, agribusiness, public-private partnership in the infrastructure sector, development of renewables and risk mitigation.

READ THE SPEECH