The FINANCIAL — The President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Sir Suma Chakrabarti, visited Bosnia and Herzegovina on 30-31 August 2016, starting the second leg of a wider regional tour of the Western Balkans. On 31 August and 1 September he is visiting Serbia. In late July, he visited Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro.
During the visit, the EBRD President met the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic; the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Denis Zvizdic; the Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Development (and EBRD Governor) Mirko Sarovic; and the Minister of Finance, Vijekoslav Bevanda. He also held talks with representatives from the government of the canton of Sarajevo and from the diplomatic and business communities.
President Chakrabarti spoke at a reception to mark the 25th anniversary of the EBRD and 20 years of the Bank’s work in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At the event, he announced that the EBRD’s Annual Meeting in 2019 will be held in Sarajevo.
In his speech, available on ebrd.com, he said: “We chose the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina for our most important annual event because this country and this region are extremely important to us at the EBRD.”
The EBRD President’s discussions focused primarily on the government’s Reform Agenda, the EU approximation process and regional integration, as well as on infrastructure and the role of the private sector in the wider economy, according to EBRD.
He welcomed the momentum generated by the recently adopted Reform Agenda, which will provide a blueprint for the country’s next steps in reform. He expressed the hope that an International Monetary Fund programme would be approved soon and would give an additional impetus to the process. He urged the authorities to maintain this reform momentum.
The EBRD President offered to tailor the Bank’s Investment Climate and Governance Initiative to Bosnia and Herzegovina. He said the EBRD was planning to invest here at record levels over the next two years – about €200 million each year.
He noted that the Bank was planning to maintain its current investment levels in critical infrastructure such as the Corridor Vc project, which will be the first motorway to connect the country to European markets.
Sir Suma also stressed that privatisation efforts need to be renewed, and offered to make available the EBRD’s considerable expertise in transparent, efficient privatisations. The EBRD will expand the programme it started recently to support women in business, and will look for ways to help combat the high youth unemployment in the country, he said.
He added that the Bank’s new Country Strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina will be approved next year.
Chairman Zvizdic confirmed that the Reform Agenda and improving the business climate, are at the top of the government’s priorities and he welcomed further EBRD engagement and support for both initiatives. He also raised the possibility of increased EBRD investment in the financial sector and transport infrastructure including potential public–private partnership structures, and in the private sector including small and medium-sized enterprises.
He noted the EBRD’s strong commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular and also to regional cooperation in the Western Balkans, which, he said, was much valued by the authorities.
Chairman Izetbegovic noted that the Presidency appreciated EBRD support in the EU approximation process and in job creation.
During his visit, the EBRD President also signed a loan to finance a water network modernisation project in the municipality of Visoko. Minister of Finance Bevanda signed the loan agreement on behalf of the government. Amra Babic, the mayor of Visoko, signed the project support agreement.
At the meeting with Elmedin Konakovic, Prime Minister of the Sarajevo canton, and ministers of transport and finance of the canton, a potential increase in cooperation in municipal infrastructure was discussed, as well as the need to move ahead with the water modernisation project that is currently under consideration, subject to agreement on a more commercialised approach to the provision of such services.
In conversations with the Foreign Investors Council and the business community, Sir Suma discussed the need to continue improving the business environment and reducing red tape, as a prerequisite for increasing the share of the private sector in the economy.
Sir Suma also met with ambassadors and representatives of international financial institutions (IFIs), who praised the existing level of cooperation with the EBRD and improved coordination among IFIs, bilaterals and the European Commission.
To date, the EBRD has invested over €1.9 billion in various projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina and over €9.5 billion in the Western Balkans. The Bank expects its investment in Bosnia and Herzegovina to top €2 billion in over 140 projects by year end.