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Europe and Central Asia

One question, eight experts, part eight: Thomas Maier

Thomas Maier's picture
Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

To gain a better understanding of how innovation in public-private partnerships (PPPs) builds on genuine learning, we reached out to PPP infrastructure experts around the world, posing the same question to each. Their honest answers redefine what works — and provide new insights into the PPP process. This is the question we posed: How can mistakes be absorbed into the learning process, and when can failure function as a step toward a PPP’s long-term success?

Our eighth and final response in this eight-part series comes from Thomas Maier, Managing Director, Infrastructure with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

For countries new to PPPs, there is no doubt a steep learning curve. Fortunately, there is also a growing body of experience that such countries can learn from — the key is to understand the essence of the lessons and then incorporate these changes into the design of government support for PPPs.

Ultimately there is, of course, no substitute for good project preparation, local capacity and the development of solid legal frameworks and local capital markets — we all know these are the building blocks for the long-term success of any country’s PPP program.

Focusing on lessons learned from EBRD’s region, two current examples from Kazakhstan and Turkey come to mind.

Did we get the ‘old-age dependency’ of aging countries all wrong?

Johannes Koettl's picture
Photo by Brookings

We have all seen the numbers before: Over the coming decades, many countries in the developed and developing world alike will significantly age. One particular number to describe this development is the “old-age dependency ratio.” It measures the number of those aged above 65 years (currently defined as old age) as a share of those between 15 to 64 years (currently defined as working age). In other words, this ratio tells us how many retired people a potential worker has to sustain. With global aging, it will deteriorate dramatically in most countries over the coming decades. This raises serious concerns about the sustainability of pension systems.

Innovation marketplace spurs entrepreneurialism in Turkey

James Reed's picture

Nurturing startups is not just about providing funding. It’s also about encouraging innovation and bold ideas, building a supportive network of capital and expertise, and providing opportunities for sharing knowledge. That’s why IFC’s Istanbul Operations Center recently organized Innovation Marketplace, an invitation-only event for more than 20 local and regional companies and 16 hand-picked startups that sought to develop new partnerships and encourage entrepreneurship in Turkey.

Older workers need lifetime skills development

Piotr Lewandowski's picture

The IBS research institute in Poland has analyzed how the nature of the labour market had changed since the country transformed in the 1990s. Those who were born in the 1970s and 1908s have been able to take advantage of new types of jobs that have emerged. But those born before have been left behind. Piotr Lewandowski, President of IBS, explains how a boom in tertiary education has created new types of jobs which have benefited these young workers - but not the older workers. This shows the importance for all workers to engage in lifetime skills development so that they can survive a transformative economic shock. 

Are we Armenians insecure about food safety?

Vigen Sargsyan's picture
I was quite surprised recently to find out that a poll of 1,066 people across Yerevan and all ten regions of Armenia revealed substantial gaps in public awareness of food safety and people's behavior. The Social Survey on Food Safety Public Awareness (June 2015) may have produced some provoking outcomes, but it could certainly become a roadmap for the State Service for Food Safety (SSFS) in its efforts to further enhance food safety in Armenia.

Old fuel for a new future: the potential of wood energy

Paula Caballero's picture
A woman buying a clean cookstove in Tanzania. Klas Sander / World Bank

The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.

And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.

But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.  

In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale. 

So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.

Financial inclusion in Asia – time for disruption?

Nataliya Mylenko's picture



More than half of the world’s population lives in Asia and its robust growth is supporting the world economy.  After weathering well the 2008 crisis Asia is now in the spotlight with currencies depreciating and capital markets in retreat.  One widely voiced concern is rapid expansion of credit in the past decade fueled by abundant liquidity.  Globally, and in Asia, regulatory response to the 2008 crisis has been to strengthen financial regulation and de-risk financial intermediation.  Yet the reality of credit markets in most Asian economies is quite different from that in high income economies.  While domestic credit by financial sector represented on average over 100% of GDP for high income OECD countries, emerging Asia’s average in 2014 stood at 60%. The differences across countries are substantial in this diverse region, but in two thirds of Asian economies domestic credit is less than 60% of GDP.  The reality for most economies in Asia is that of limited and often inefficient financial markets which do not serve fully their growth needs. Low level of financial inclusion is a major contributing factor and a major challenge.

Lessons from the taxi industry to improve Romania’s governance

Ismail Radwan's picture
taxi in Romania
Photo: Daniel Kozak, World Bank


The first time I came to Bucharest in 2013 the Bank office offered to arrange a pick up from the airport. Being a seasoned traveler, I declined the offer. I reasoned that I had lived and worked in so many countries I could manage the transfer to the hotel without assistance. I was wrong.
 
I picked up my luggage to find a local cab outside the airport. A taxi driver offered me a ride. I didn’t negotiate the price upfront seeing that he had a meter in the car.
 
Twenty minutes later we reached the hotel. The meter read Lei 200 - at the that time about $60. That was over twice the going rate but there was little else I could do. I felt cheated as so many tourists do.
 
I learned from the experience, accepted offers of help from colleagues and paid more attention to rates going forward.
 
About a year later I returned to Bucharest to find a new system in place.  An electronic kiosk had been installed at the airport.  Arriving visitors could now press a button to get an estimated wait time to hail a taxi. I took my ticket. It was a smooth ride.
  
What made the difference? 
 
The new taxi ordering system is now available on mobile phones mirroring, in many ways, the service provided by Uber. Passengers can rate drivers and increase accountability.  
 
Bucharest has gone from being a difficult place to find an honest cab driver to one of the most convenient. 
 
The change has been driven by incentives and improved technology. 

 What are the implications for governance reform? 

Young people run faster, but seniors know the shortcuts

Johannes Koettl's picture
In a world of increasingly fluid labor markets, many older workers fear being pushed aside and out of their jobs by younger, more dynamic employees. But is this worry really justified? Are we less productive as we age?

The answer to the question has important implications for how well we can keep older people at work. As I have argued together with Wolfgang Fengler before, we not only live longer and healthier lives, but we also have the potential to work longer.

Yet, this will only happen if we have the right skills and abilities for the job also at old age. It is quite obvious that our body becomes slower and weaker as we grow old - but what about our brain? And even if our body and brain get weaker - does it matter for employers?

Open Data for Business Tool: learning from initial pilots

Laura Manley's picture
Citizens in Nigeria participate in a
readiness assessment exercise to identify
high-priority datasets
Around the world, governments, entrepreneurs and established businesses are seeing the economic growth potential of using Open Data – data from government and other sources that can be downloaded, used and reused without charge.
 
As a public resource, Open Data can help launch new private-sector ventures and help existing businesses create new products and services and optimize their operations. Government data – a leading source of Open Data – can help support companies in healthcare, agriculture, energy, education, and many other industries.  

​In addition, government agencies can be most helpful to the private sector if they understand the unique needs of the businesses that currently or could potentially use their data.
 
The World Bank has used the Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) in more than 20 countries to provide an overall evaluation of a country’s Open Data ecosystem. With that information and insight, government agencies can identify strengths and opportunities for making their Open Data more useful and effective. The ODRA covers essential components of any national Open Data program, including:

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