Two years after it started operations in four Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) countries the EBRD is on course to reach a total portfolio of €1.5 billion of investments in the new region.
In a keynote speech to the Governors of the Islamic Development Bank in Washington today, EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti reconfirmed the Bank’s commitment to the SEMED countries and set out the Bank’s priorities.
“The EBRD has a strong track record in being able to take on new tasks, new countries and deliver swiftly”, he said. The Bank was “active in the entire spectrum of economic activity” and building on the experiences of the transition process in the countries where it has been operating for more than 20 years.
Among lessons to be learned the President mentioned the important role the state has to play in the transition process. “An effective state is crucial in supporting nascent markets and enforcing laws and regulations”, he said. In order to support such efforts the EBRD has launched specific initiatives in selected countries to improve the business climate.
Responding to the most pressing needs of the countries and drawing on past experiences, in the SEMED countries the EBRD is particularly active in promoting the private sector and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises who serve as the backbone of successful economies.
This is especially pertinent before the background of socio-economic disparities, high unemployment and gender inequality: “Performance is not just about figures, it is about the tangible impact on people’s lives and therefore the EBRD is focused on tackling the region’s challenges”, Sir Suma said.
The Bank is developing non sovereign financing solutions for infrastructures, including private public projects, and promoting sustainable energy and energy efficiency initiatives as well as supporting and developing local capital markets in the SEMED region.
As examples for investments the President mentioned a USD 30 million loan to finance Jordan’s first district heating and cooling plant and a USD 126 million credit line for the modernisation of Egypt’s railway system which will improve the commute for millions of passengers between Cairo and Alexandria.
While emphasising the EBRD’s expertise and experience which made it possible for the Bank to successfully start operating in the new region, Sir Suma admitted that the engagement in the SEMED also was a learning curve for the Bank.
“The regions are very different in terms of culture and history, but there are also similarities in the economic challenges they face”, he said.
Tackling these challenges, the EBRD is also working closely with other international financial institutions and donor governments. Sir Suma paid tribute to the cooperation with the Islamic Development Bank and said: “IDB has been extremely helpful in supporting the EBRD’s integration into the SEMED region.”