Gérard Mestrallet is chairman and CEO of ENGIE, formerly GDF Suez. He spoke at the World Bank Group about his company's support for carbon pricing and the involvement of Europe's energy companies in reinvigorating the EU's emissions trading system.
Europe and Central Asia
Particularly over the last decade, Albania has seen a number of PPP projects being implemented, most of them in the energy sector; for example, the Ashta hydropower plant on whose development the International Finance Corporation (IFC) advised. Given, however, that the country’s overall capacity and readiness to carry out PPPs has been assessed as only slightly above average (Source: Infrascope for Central and Eastern Europe 2012, The Economist Intelligence Unit), there is an apparent need to further build up and strengthen its institutional and implementation ability vis-à-vis PPPs. To this end, the Government of Albania is now focused on the further streamlining of its legal and regulatory PPP framework as one area of reform.
In February, a joint team from the World Bank and the IFC therefore participated in a review of the country’s current PPP legislation as well as the changes proposed to it, and organized a workshop for the Government of Albania. The latter focused on the institutional and legal/regulatory context essential for carrying out PPPs. Two colleagues and I represented the World Bank’s PPP group during our visit.
By now everybody is witnessing the devastating consequences of the 7.8 magnitude (Richter scale) earthquake in Nepal. According to the latest figures, more than 7,000 people have died and more than 10,000 have been injured. These numbers are likely to increase as the authorities and relief agencies reach more remote locations.
In light of this event we asked ourselves a series of questions for our region:
When will the next catastrophic earthquake hit?
Where will it be?
Is it going to be in East Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region?
Are we prepared for it?
The answers to these questions are both simple and complex.
When we think of eradicating extreme poverty, most of us associate this idea with the provision of basic needs. Food. Water. Shelter. Some argue to include clean air, security, even access to basic healthcare and primary education. But what about access to the internet? Where does the internet fit into development?
This is one of the overarching questions put to the authors of the upcoming 2016 World Development Report: Internet for Development. It was also the topic of a recent roundtable discussion entitled Digital Trade: Benefits and Impediments here at the World Bank Group, where economists and development professionals, including representatives from the public and private sectors, sat down to discuss some of these issues in detail.
The conversation hinged on what the internet meant for trade, especially for online entrepreneurs in developing countries. The internet, in many ways, signifies innovation. How then can we ensure that individuals seeking to introduce their ideas to the world and tap into the global marketplace can best do so? Is this a question of infrastructure? Is it a question of regulation?
Here’s what the numbers tell us.
“All roads lead to Rome” may have been true in ancient times, but policymakers during this Spring Meetings season in Washington have been focused on another classical crossroads: All roads now lead to Athens, as the intensifying eurozone crisis is again stoking fears that Greece may soon “crash out” of the European common currency system – potentially dealing a severe shock to the still-fragile global financial markets.
“The discussions about Greece have pervaded every meeting” during this fast-forward week of finance and diplomacy, said the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. That viewpoint was reinforced by a studious chronicler of the Greek drama’s daily details, Chris Giles of The Financial Times, who asserted – in an unusually dismissive swipe – that “the antics of Greece dominated the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.”
The Greece-focused anxiety was palpable to many Spring Meetings attendees, judging by the number of corridor conversations and solemn sidebars that dwelled on the eurozone drama – especially on the Fund’s side of 19th Street NW. While most forums and panels on the Bank’s side of the street focused on the progress of many developing countries, events at the Fund seemed consumed by the policy contortions within Greece's faltering economy, as Meetings-goers monitored every tremble of their text messages to follow the week’s the week’s staccato bulletin-bulletin-bulletin news of Greece’s financial flailing.
“The mood is notably more gloomy than at the last international gathering,” said Osborne, “and it’s clear . . . that a misstep or miscalculation on either side [of the Greece negotiations] could easily return European economies to the kind of perilous situation we saw three to four years ago.” Having received a $118 billion bailout in May 2010 and a second package of $139 billion in October 2011, Greece is now at an impasse with its creditors: the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission. A new government in Greece – having denounced the loan conditions reluctantly accepted by its predecessor governments – is debating how, or whether, it should comply with lenders’ pressure for far-reaching reform. Greece's foot-dragging has exasperated the lenders even as Greece envisions a potential third bailout program.
As the Greek tragedy unfolds, the doleful observation of Wolfgang Münchau in the FT seems all too apt: “Until last week, discussions with Greece did not go well. That changed when the circus of international financial diplomacy moved to Washington for the Spring Meetings. Then it became worse.”
On one hand, Georgia has achieved significant economic growth over the past decade, successfully introduced much needed governance reform, and become synonymous with world leadership in terms of doing business (ranked in the top 15 and better than some OECD countries).
On the other hand, the country has been dogged persistently by high poverty rates – among the highest in the Europe and Central Asia region. And, despite a highly improved business environment, unemployment rates remain in the double digits: official unemployment is currently around 15 percent!
Lower oil prices are a boon for oil importers around the world. But how well are oil-producing countries adapting to the apparent end of a decades-long “commodity supercycle” and lower revenues? And what does this mean for the global economy?
World Bank economists provided insights on the situation in six developing regions at a webcast event April 15 ahead of the World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings. The discussion focused on the challenge of creating sustainable global growth in an environment of slowing growth.
World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu said the global economy is growing at 2.9% and is “in a state of calm, but a slightly threatening kind of calm. … Just beneath the surface, there’s a lot happening, and that leads to some disquiet, concern – and the possibilities of a major turnaround and improvement.”