EBRD prepares for challenges ahead at Astana Annual Meeting

By Anthony Williams

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The EBRD holds its Annual Meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana on 20-21 May, ready and equipped to support its existing region through recovery from the global financial crisis and preparing for possible new challenges in North Africa.

This year’s meeting, which coincides with the Bank’s 20th anniversary, will focus on the further development of markets and assess reform priorities and investment challenges as countries prepare for more balanced and more sustainable growth in the future..

A new EBRD economic outlook for the region that will be published during the Annual Meeting will show that the recovery process is now broadly on track. But it will also point to some new risks and continued uncertainties.

Countries in the EBRD region were among the hardest hit emerging markets during the global crisis and the recovery has been uneven.

The EBRD will seek to support that recovery process and to equip countries to strengthen their economic performance. This will be particularly important as countries compete for foreign direct investments with some very successful emerging markets in other parts of the world.

Bolstered by a capital increase that was agreed by shareholders at last year’s Annual Meeting in Zagreb, the EBRD aims to carry on investing in eastern Europe and central Asia at sharply higher levels than before the crisis, with expected financing of between 8.5 and 9 billion euros over the coming years.

The Annual Meeting will address key reform requirements at its traditional Business Forum, which this year is entitled “Supporting Markets – Asia Meets Europe”.

Policy makers, officials and experts will discuss major topics including a review of reforms needed to secure economic recovery, how to better foster entrepreneurship, dealing with food price challenges by unlocking farming potential, developing local currency markets, achieving the right balance between the state and the private sector and promoting the flow of finance to help protect the environment.

Speaking ahead of the Annual Meeting, EBRD President Thomas Mirow said, “In this 20th anniversary year we can look back with a certain pride on the contribution the Bank has made to the remarkable progress in our region since the collapse of communism.”

In Astana, the EBRD’s Governors will also assess the potential for extending the EBRD’s mandate to North Africa and produce a roadmap for deciding any such move.

Since last year, the Bank has been considering a request from existing shareholder Egypt to become a country where the Bank invests and the international community has encouraged EBRD shareholders to extend any such step to embrace the wider region.

The Governors will discuss a timetable for making decisions on the Egyptian request and on the possibility of a wider extension of the EBRD’s mandate into the North African region.

Thomas Mirow: “I am sure that the experience we have built up in the two decades of our operations can be usefully applied in other areas where people are seeking change and signals of hope.”

The Annual Meeting’s traditional Jacques de Larosière Lecture will be given by Professor Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former President of Poland.

As usual, the EBRD will make a local charitable donation at the Annual Meeting to promote energy efficiency. This year the Bank will join up with Kazakh company  KEGOC JSC to invest in a project to enhance the efficient use of energy in a public school building in Astana.

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