BAKU, Azerbaijan, Feb. 23
By Maryana Akhmedova – Trend:
The top priority for Asian Development Bank (ADB) is to complete the missing sections of Georgia’s key trade and transport corridors linking regions with economic activity, ADB Country Director in Georgia, Shane Rosenthal, told Trend in an exclusive interview.
“This will help Georgia capitalize on its geographic position as a regional trade, transport, logistics, and transit hub, including through improved commerce and logistics performance,” Rosenthal said.
ADB, being one of Georgia’s largest development partners, has provided the country with $1.7 billion in development assistance throughout the partnership, Rosenthal noted.
For several years, ADB has been supporting Georgia in maximizing the potential of transport sector through large investments in infrastructure, the country director said.
“We have committed more than $1.3 billion to ongoing efforts to develop strategic transport corridors and secondary roads, which are also helping to bring the sector in line with European standards. These investments cover major sections of the East–West Highway and a climate-resilient highway along the North–South Corridor that includes constructing the longest tunnel in Georgia,” he said.
ADB has also made substantial investments to enable the delivery of safe water and sanitation services, and to strengthen the electricity transmission sector, to ensure balanced development across rural and urban areas.
The bank approved the $120 million Livable Cities Investment Program in November 2021, which is aimed at upgrading existing infrastructure and improving services in urban areas across Georgia, to boost economic opportunities and improve the quality of life, Rosenthal said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, ADB helped Georgian Government finance measures to protect vulnerable groups and support businesses, he said.
“Over the past two years, ADB provided $300 million in assistance aimed specifically at helping Georgia respond to COVID-19. We have also provided $15 million in financing for vaccine procurement and logistics through our Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility,” he added.
Structural reforms remain crucial, not just for mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 but more broadly, for supporting economic growth and job creation, Rosenthal noted.
“ADB has been building and sustaining momentum in key policy reform areas such as transport and trade facilitation, water and sanitation infrastructure, agriculture and irrigation, energy, and state-owned enterprise reform,” Rosenthal said.
Speaking of the ADB’s support for Georgia’s energy sector Rosenthal said that Georgia’s green and renewable energy potential is critical for environmental sustainability and for addressing the effects of the climate change.
Georgia Global Utilities, a water utility and renewable energy holding company, was able to expand water supply and sanitation in Tbilisi and nearby municipalities, and refinance debt taken for earlier investments in renewable energy and water operations, under ADB’s support in 2020.
Rosenthal also mentioned the ADB’s policy-based loan of $100 million, which was provided by the Bank in 2021, to help Georgia transform the electricity transmission sector into an efficient and financially sustainable operation.
He explained that the loan enhances Georgia’s energy export capacity and electricity market liberalization reforms with its planned establishment of Georgia’s first Energy Exchange – an initiative that is in line with international best practice, where prices are determined by market forces.
Further speaking, ADB country director said that the Bank will continue providing support to Georgia in implementation of structural reforms and also will introduce several new programs in 2022.
The ADB’s activity in Georgia in the nearest future will be related to innovative approaches in e-mobility, the use of hydrogen technologies, and climate-smart irrigation for a more resilient and diversified economy, Rosenthal said.
“A lot of our assistance is centered around public sector reforms focusing on governance, institutional capacity building, public investment management, access to finance and capital markets development, and state-owned enterprise reforms,” he said.
According to the country director, one of the ADB’s initiatives in Georgia in the current year will be related to climate-smart agriculture and irrigation development.
“ADB will promote policies and investments to support new technologies, integrate urban development and municipal finance with green and sustainable transport for balanced development and private sector-led growth. One of our top priorities will be to help the government advance its climate change agenda by providing knowledge and financial assistance,” Rosenthal said.
“We are also working with the government on expanding operations in education beyond vocational education and training. This means doing more to support skills development and labor market productivity with modernized general education,” he added.
According to Rosenthal, the challenge for ADB now is to ensure safe and sustainable operation and maintenance of the existing assets, so that they remain operational over the long term.
The Bank will continue to support improved transport and connectivity, water supply and sanitation, livable cities, and the energy sector in Georgia, the country director concluded.
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