Azerbaijani Delegation to Attend Annual Meeting of EBRD

Azerbaijan, Baku, 17 May /corr. Trend I.Khalilova / A Governmental delegation of Azerbaijan headed by the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Mikail Jabbarov, left for Kiev to attend the 17th meeting of the EBRD Board of Governors, a Government said at the Ministry of Economic Development on 17 May. The Azerbaijani Governor to the bank is the Minister of Economic Development, Heydar Babayev. The meeting will take place on 18-19 May.

Discussions during the two-day session will focus on the progress in the whole EBRD region over the last decade. But the region's remaining challenges will also feature high on the agenda, particularly given the potential impact of slowing global economic growth, recent financial market turbulence and the new threat of rising inflation.

During the meeting, the EBRD's Board of Governors will vote on a proposal to unveil a time-table for the Bank to decide by the end of October on whether EBRD shareholder Turkey will be admitted to the Bank a recipient of EBRD investments.

Governors will also decide on a proposal to return some 80 percent of the Bank's €1.1 billion 2007 net income to reserves in order to prepare for future investments in the region. But, in a first for the Bank, there is an additional proposal to set aside €115 million to a new fund that will provide technical cooperation finance to support Bank projects.

A further €135 million should be donated to help support international efforts to ensure the safety of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986, according to the resolution before Governors.

The EBRD manages the fund of international donor money financing the Chernobyl clean-up and President Jean Lemierre will visit the site with delegates on 20 May.

This will be Mr Lemierre's last Annual Meeting. He steps down on 3 July after serving two full four-year terms in office. German Finance Ministry State Secretary Thomas Mirow has been proposed as his successor.

The Annual Meeting takes place as the EBRD continues to shift its activities further south and east in line with the requirements of the people and the economies in the region.

In 2007 the Bank invested €5.6 billion in the region, 90 percent of that going to countries outside of the eight that joined the EU in 2004. During the year, the Bank sharply increased its investments in the poorest countries of operations and also demonstrated its capacity for risk-taking by boosting the number of equity stakes it took in enterprises throughout the region. Energy efficiency projects, which the EBRD sees as key to ensuring energy security, took some 20 percent of the overall investments.

The Bank will take the opportunity at the Annual Meeting to focus on the lives of the people in the countries where the EBRD is active. The EBRD is particularly honoured that Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov has compiled a collection of personal reflections on the transition process across the Bank's region of operations to be launched in Kiev.

"Histories of hope in the first person" relates social and economic changes in the region over the last decade and a half through the voices and emotions of 15 prominent writers and essayists.

An exhibition of works by well-known, contemporary Ukrainian artists will be held in the presence of President Viktor Yushchenko at the 8th century Mystetsky Arsenal building in central Kiev to round off the two-day session. Prime Minister Yulya Tymoshenko will host a reception at the Friendship Arch Park on 18 May.

Alongside the traditional meeting of the EBRD's Board of Governors, this year's Annual Business Forum will be staged under the heading "Energising Modern Economies".

The Bank will also hold meetings with representatives from civil society to discuss the EBRD's projects.

Panel discussions at the Annual Business Forum include the use of renewable fuels to help tackle energy shortages and investing in infrastructure, a key topic as Ukraine and Poland gear up to jointly host the Euro 2012 soccer championships.

Other themes include the drive towards corporate and social responsibility in businesses throughout the region, the rise of the middle classes who may well determine the political future of EBRD countries as well as trends in the hi-tech industry.

Rising food prices feature strongly, both in a forum panel discussion as well as in a separate conference to be held in Kiev after the Annual Meeting on 20 May. The EBRD's response to this new economic challenge has been to bring together public authorities and private agribusiness entrepreneurs to help boost investment and unlock vast agricultural potential. During the forum, the Bank will also release its latest economic forecasts for the region.

Former Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski will close the meeting with the traditional Jacques de Larosiere lecture.

The EBRD displays an interest in realizing projects in Azerbaijan to develop private sector and regions. The bank considers the possibility to finance 18 projects totaling €140-180mln in Azerbaijan in 2008. Eight of them are small projects directed towards financing entrepreneurs. Nearly €60mln is planned to be spent on strengthening banking sector. They envisage supporting small and medium business, mortgage crediting, micro finance. Currently the EBRD co-operates with eight banks.

In addition, talks are being held with the Government to finance infrastructure projects, especially on reconstruction of roads, improvement of railway infrastructure.

Since its activity in Azerbaijan, the EBRD allocated $1bln for the projects in the Country . As of 30 June 2007, the bank provided €482.4mln for realization of 61 projects.

Official rate on 17 May makes up 0.8274 AZN/USD

The correspondent can be contacted at: [email protected]

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