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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.

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:

Part of the #Youthbiz movement? Share your story!

Valerie Lorena's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية

A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth. 
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties. 
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.

More oil from old wells: Innovating for Kazakhstan’s future

Yeraly Beksultan's picture
Although innovation has been a hot topic in Kazakhstan for over a decade now, it’s not always easy getting brilliant ideas “from the laboratory to the market.”
Kazakh scientists navigate this winding, unpredictable road for years and generally come to the realization that great scientific research is not enough in itself. Too often, they face a lack of support when it comes to applying the results of their scientific research in a useful, practical way.
Fortunately, a team of Kazakh scientists at the Private Entity Institute of Polymer Materials and Technology in Almaty has had a somewhat more positive experience. This team has been working on a truly innovative project: developing a solution to improving the recovery of oil from old oil wells in Kazakhstan.
But why, you might ask?

In Kazakhstan, every number counts

Aliya Pistayeva's picture
Mark Twain once said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It might seem that not much has changed since then.

In Kazakhstan, however, we have tried to change this perception of statistics, starting with the KAZSTAT Project that was launched in 2013 to strengthen the national statistical system.

Helping governments act upon the advice they seek

Jyoti Bisbey's picture
Path along the Ishim River in Astana,
Kazakhstan. Photo: Jyoti Bisbey
“What is different now?” This question echoed through my head during my recent morning runs along the beautiful Ishim River in Astana, Kazakhstan.

I was in Astana on mission to launch the new technical assistance program for Kazakhstan’s PPP policy reform, which addresses bottlenecks that constrain project structuring. This reform is especially important if the country’s Almaty Ring Road PPP is to be effective. Almaty Ring Road has been a thought-provoking transaction because previous attempts to solidify the partnership have not panned out, and grasping the history is important to resolving this successfully. Moazzam Mekam, IFC’s Regional Manager for Central Asia, and I spent many hours brainstorming on scenarios that would allow us to bring all of the stakeholders into agreement.  Most of the time, it felt like we were trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
The Almaty Ring Road is Kazakhstan’s only PPP in preparation right now, and it’s in the spotlight during its prequalification stage. The advisory services are provided by IFC; three years of project preparation have been devoted to ensuring that this is the right project to take to market as a PPP.  As the World Bank Group continues to support Kazakhstan on bringing private sector participation into the delivery of public infrastructure services, the reality is that since the 2006 Concession Law, not one PPP project has transpired.  Before the Concession Law, there were three PPP projects, but all of them have had issues. 
As I resumed one of my sunrise runs in this very flat, picturesque, futuristic city, I recalled a recent conversation with Moazzam. He made the point that even when there is a high level of political support for PPPs in the country, institutional and regulatory frameworks are sometimes not ready for PPPs. Capacity and willingness to undertake PPPs at the line ministry/agency level is limited. In instances like this, or when conditions exist in a similar context, we must ask ourselves how to respond, and how to move forward.

Helping civil society build peace and restore trust

Alua Kennedy's picture

I like entertaining my western friends with stories of growing up in the post-communist Kazakhstan limbo, when everything ended, but nothing had yet started. Stories of how my friends and I would collect old newspapers to trade for books and Moscow magazine subscriptions. ​And later on, selling empty milk bottles back for some cash to buy candy and chewing gum in the newly opened Chinese shops. The audience goes “oohh” and “ahh”, and oh do I feel like I’ve seen a lot and know what life is like!

I have to admit – attending the Fragility Conflict and Violence (FCV) Forum 2015 that took place at the World Bank HQ last week was an experience that changed my perspective on hardships of life in developing countries. There are developing countries and then there are fragile and conflict-affected countries.

Apply for SAFE Trust Fund grants

Soukeyna Kane's picture

The SAFE Trust Fund application (Word document) is now open until 27 February 2015.
What is SAFE?
SAFE means Strengthening Accountability and the Fiduciary Environment. It is a Trust Fund group administered by the World Bank and established by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the European Commission with the aim of improving public financial management in the Europe and Central Asia region. This Trust Fund group provides support for activities to assess public financial management (PFM) performance, identify and implement actions to achieve improvements and share knowledge and good practices across countries in the region.

Rising Financial Pressures from the East

Aurora Ferrari's picture
It’s hard to get a break in the Europe and Central Asia region, it seems – even a short one. Hit hard by the troubles in the Eurozone at the beginning of the decade, emerging and developing countries in Eastern Europe are, at the beginning of this year, contending with renewed fears. Meanwhile, external pressures have built up on the Central Asia side as well.

All eyes turned to Russia recently, when on 16 December the ruble plunged by more than 11 percent, despite the Central Bank of Russia’s last-minute interest rate hike of 6.5 percentage points to 17 percent. When it looked like Russia’s turmoil might spread to global markets, western economies sat up and paid close attention.

What may have gone unnoticed, however, is the ongoing impact on our client countries in the Europe and Central Asia region.