EBRD launches first Economic Inclusion Strategy

By Nibal Zgheib

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The EBRD has launched its first Economic Inclusion Strategy, stepping up a drive to ensure that more sections of society can benefit from economic progress in the countries where the Bank invests.

The launch of the Strategy underscores the EBRD’s commitment to inclusion as a key priority and coincides with an increasing worldwide focus on the challenges posed by globalisation, in particular the problem of inequality of opportunity.

“This is a major step forward in firmly anchoring the concept of economic inclusion in our work through our distinctive, private-sector-led approach,” said EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti.

Globalisation and the shift to market economies in the EBRD’s regions have resulted in huge benefits, with countries on average becoming much richer over the last 25 years. But not everyone has benefited equally or shared fully the fruits of growing prosperity.

Through investment and support for policy reform, the EBRD already seeks the greater economic integration of three core groups: women, the young and people living in remote areas.

Under the new Strategy, the Bank will intensify this work, deepening and strengthening its private-sector approach to inclusion across the areas of access to skills and employment, entrepreneurship and access to finance and access to services that enhance economic opportunities.

The EBRD will explore opportunities to carefully widen its response to inclusion beyond the three core categories of gender, youth and region to include other groups, such as an ageing workforce, people with disabilities, refugees and potentially others, on a country-by-country basis.

This first Strategy, launched at the EBRD’s Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Cyprus, will be implemented between 2017 and 2021.  

Economic inclusion, the opening up of economic opportunities to under-served social groups, is integral to achieving a transition towards sustainable market economies.

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By formalising its approach to inclusion, the EBRD is making clear to all of its clients and other stakeholders that inclusion is a key strategic priority for the Bank and an area where the EBRD can make a unique contribution.

Inclusion is also one of the six core transition qualities that the Bank adopted in November 2016 and which it sees as crucial to the realisation of its mandate to promote well-functioning, open-market economies.

In addition to the focus on inclusion, the adoption of these qualities is aimed at making countries more competitive, well-governed, green, resilient and integrated – precisely those drivers of economic change best able to equip the EBRD regions for the challenges of the 21st century.

On the basis of the new Strategy, the EBRD will now reach out to more partners in the area of access to skills and employment, working with them to diversify their workforce, tap into new talent pools, retain staff or increase their skill sets, and open up paths to jobs and training specifically for the targeted groups.

The EBRD will build on its expertise in promoting entrepreneurship and financial inclusion by extending banking and other financial products as well as business advisory services to population groups that face the greatest barriers to using the formal financial system.

In remote areas, the Bank will increase connectivity with infrastructure that substantially enhances access to jobs, markets, education or skills and health care. It will help to improve IT links, as well as access to water, wastewater systems and irrigated land in these regions.

The extent and impact of inequality in the EBRD’s regions was demonstrated clearly by the EBRD’s Transition Report 2016-17, titled “Transition for all: Equal opportunities in an unequal world”.

The Report showed that just 44 per cent of people in post-communist countries have personally seen their incomes catch up with those of their neighbours in the more prosperous countries of western Europe.

The publication linked inequality and even the perception of inequality with a diminishing support for policies and reforms aimed at promoting effective market economies.

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