Hyatt Hotel, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
Kyrgyz Republic National Water Forum
President Jeenbekov, Ministers, Excellencies, distinguished participants,
It is a great privilege to be here with you today at this forum.
I know that, for many years, the Country’s leadership, heads of municipalities and water companies have used the forum to discuss how to improve people’s lives by ensuring that clean water reaches each household in the Kyrgyz Republic.
You have just all heard the President’s personal passion and commitment to this agenda. And his willingness to hold decision-makers to account. He does so because he knows, as do we all, that clean water can mean the difference between health and sickness, or even life and death.
Yet, many people lack access to basic clean water supply in the regions.
You have the power to change that.
The Kyrgyz leadership has the ambition to provide universal access to clean and safe water within the next five years. I am here today to affirm EBRD’s support for that goal.
And the Kyrgyz Republic, together with its partners, is, I am glad to learn, well on track to achieve this goal.
From our side, over the past decade since the EBRD signed its first water project, we have taken extraordinary strides in supporting this objective, through 19 standalone operations in 17 cities.
Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country, particularly in the regions, have access to clean potable water for the first time, in their own homes.
The total investment volume has been over €153 million and this includes €95 million of grants provided by our major partners, such as the European Union and the Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs.
We will hear from the EU and Swiss ambassadors in a moment. I am most grateful for their continued partnership and support.
Working together with our donor partners, our initial investments in the sector mainly addressed basic infrastructure needs - pipes, pumping stations and filtration systems.
This is the foundation for innovative, but no less life-changing, approaches.
Today we can discuss not only how to provide water and sanitation to ordinary households, but how to do it in a resource-efficient and green way. How to minimise the impact on the environment and reduce carbon emissions.
Here the EBRD strives to make sure that our investments in high priority economic sectors, including the water sector, help the country become more resilient to the climate challenges of today as well as those of the future.
Later today Prime Minister Abulgaziev and my colleague Alain Pilloux, EBRD Vice President, will officially launch the Climate Finance Centre, which will play a major role in directing funds to priority environmental projects, including those in the water sector.
As the Kyrgyz Government invests in enhancing basic infrastructure to improve lives, it also creates new jobs and growth.
The EBRD, the central government and municipal authorities are working together on tariff reform, which is the key factor for operational and financial sustainability of water utilities.
We support tariff reforms, but we also agree with the Kyrgyz leadership that they need to be equitably and transparently prepared, explained and implemented. And that the most vulnerable in society need protection and support.
We look forward to hearing the feedback from today’s panel sessions, presentation and discussions which will be jointly led by Kyrgyz experts, EBRD economists and KPMG colleagues.
Your views, as practitioners, the people doing the work on the ground, matter the most.
As I said earlier today to President Jeenbekov, the EBRD is prepared to invest further in critical infrastructure on a larger scale than we do today.
That would include, for example, investments in inter-regional water companies to provide water to households in the regions where investment needs are huge, but communities are small.
The EBRD will also provide much needed reliable irrigation to ensure that smaller rural communities, the backbone of the Kyrgyz economy, have the opportunity to grow and flourish.
But, for us to be successful, investing in hard infrastructure is not enough.
We must invest in people, skills and good governance as well.
When people are forgotten, the utilities become fractured.
Today, I am inviting all the leaders of municipalities from all over the country to discuss with my team further ways of using technical cooperation funds - provided by the EBRD and our donor partners - to build strong, independent and successful companies that serve their communities well.
Thank you, President Jeenbekov, for the opportunity to speak to this extremely important forum, with the leaders and innovators for the national water sector in one place.
And my thanks to all of the hardworking women and men in the vodokanals, the engineers and construction workers, drivers and administrators, who do their duty each day, making the country’s infrastructure safer and more efficient for everyone. They are helping make our ambitious goals a reality.
Thank you very much.