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23 Nov 2016

EBRD set to expand activities in Belarus through new utility, IT projects

MINSK, 23 November (BelTA) – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has plans to expand its activities in Belarus through new projects in the housing and utilities sector and IT industry, BelTA learned from Alexander Pivovarsky, Head of the EBRD Office in Belarus.

“Belarus is an important country for the EBRD. Our Board of Directors has adopted a new strategy, which was an important decision. There were serious restrictions on our work with Belarus’ public sector before that. The restrictions have been removed, and we can expand our scope of activities,” Alexander Pivovarsky said. He explained that this is relevant for both the public sector and private companies.

For instance, European bankers show interest in IT technologies. “It is not the easiest sector to work with through loans, but we would like to take another look at it. So far it is difficult to say whether we will conduct projects with Belarus’ Hi-Tech Park or private companies. We have plans to invite our colleagues who work in this sector to hold talks with both the Hi-Tech Park and private companies,” Alexander Pivovarsky said.

He pointed out that the EBRD is conducting large-scale housing and utilities projects in Belarus. Some of them are designed to improve the water supply in the country. The first project was launched in 2012 in three Belarusian cities, Vitebsk, Baranovichi and Slonim. Lida, Polotsk and Orsha joined the project in October 2016, which marked the beginning of its second stage. The cities will get loans to the tune of €21 million from the EBRD for the renovation of their water supply and disposal infrastructure. “We have plans to further develop the project. It is possible that new cities and towns will be invited to join it. Usually we implement projects starting from the capital. In Belarus, however, we started with the regions, and we are proud of it. This is an important example, as it demonstrates that in the countries that are in the early stages of reforms, it is possible to work in the regions that have qualified workforce and achieve good results,” he stressed. Alexander Pivovarsky noted that the EBRD also plans to launch projects in Minsk. Some of them will be aimed at reducing energy consumption in different fields, from water supply to street lighting.

Alexander Pivovarsky said that the EBRD is currently busy implementing two pre-privatization support projects, namely Belinvestbank and Bank Moscow-Minsk. “It is too early to talk about new projects in the financial sector. We need to complete the work which we have already began. We are set to implement the project with Belinvestbank in the best possible way because it will be an example of the work of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Belarus,” he said.

Alexander Pivovarsky also said that the EBRD is currently analyzing the situation at three state-owned enterprises proposed by the Belarusian government for pre-privatization analysis (Mostovdrev, BHPO and Krinitsa – note by BelTA). The work is at different stages. We have already done an internal analysis of Mostovdrev and handed the documents over to the government. Now we are discussing next steps. As for the other companies, we are at the initial stage, and are looking for consultants to conduct the analysis. For us, these three companies are quite a big piece of work. It is early to talk about others. We will start working on new companies only after we successfully complete at least one project so that everybody makes sure that this work brings benefit to the country, investors, and the Bank,” he said.

The seminar on reform in the water supply sector by the EBRD and the FGG was held in Minsk on 23 November. It was attended by EBRD experts, FGG consultants, representatives of Belarusian ministries, and water supply companies. The main topic was the draft program of corporate development and cost reduction in the water sector in Belarus.

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