In May 2018, ten members of the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors (EDs) visited Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine to experience first-hand the development opportunities and challenges faced by these countries. The group of EDs also met and exchanged views with authorities, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders on partnership with the World Bank Group.
During their visit to Belarus, the Executive Directors met with Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov and selected members of the Council of Ministers, to discuss Belarus’s development priorities outlined in the recently endorsed Country Partnership Framework (CPF).
The EDs visited projects financed by the World Bank Group, which included a wastewater treatment facility in Berezino; the state-owned enterprise “Lenta” – Belarus’s leading producer of ribbon, curtains and textile products for technical, medical and industrial purposes; a Thermal Power Plant in Mogilev city, which provides more than 200,000 Belarusians with reliable power supplies; and a forestry nursery which grows new planting stock adapted to climate change.
The EDs had the opportunity to meet with residents in Mogilev and learn about the importance of thermal renovation for apartments, as well as to hear from residents about how they feel about paying for the upgrades. In addition, the EDs visited a housing project of the IFC client company A-100 and learned from private firms about the business environment.
“Our visit to Belarus was very informative and productive. From our meetings with different stakeholders, we learned that all of them highly appreciate the World Bank Group’s investments and advice,” said Yingming Yang, the Executive Director for China. “We are pleased to see that many World Bank Group activities concern policy or institutional support components and help pave the way for structural changes in the country. It also helps us to better appreciate the diversity of both development challenges and pathways for growth in our client countries.”
The visit to Georgia included meetings with President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and key members of the Cabinet. A separate meeting with the Governor for the World Bank, Minister of Finance, Mamuka Bakhtadze was also held. These meetings were an opportunity for the EDs to hear the country’s vision for development and plans for sustaining macroeconomic stability; exchange views on cooperation with the World Bank Group and program implementation, and highlight the strategic shift in the new CPF toward strengthened investment in human capital.
During the visit, the delegation also met with the private sector, ambassadors and World Bank Group staff. The project site visits included: Tblivino (IFC beneficiary), one of the leading Georgian winemaking companies where they heard views on the key challenges of the agricultural sector and the export potential of the country; Georgia Innovation and Technology Agency, which implements the World Bank supported Innovation Ecosystem Project that aims to increase the innovative activities of firms and individuals across Georgia and their participation in the digital economy; “Kvarlis Baga” (IFC beneficiary) a dairy farm where they learned about the key challenges and opportunities in the Georgian dairy sector; and selected regional development program sites and beneficiaries in Telavi, Kakheti Region.
The latter is one of the flagships of Georgia’s cooperation with the World Bank and is designed to improve the quality of local infrastructure, promote cultural heritage preservation and sustainable tourism, create job opportunities, and generate public-private partnerships.
At the end of the visit, the delegation met with the Mayor of Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze, who highlighted the importance of the ongoing urban regeneration and resilience program, and the disaster risk management and climate resilience work the Bank has been supporting in the country.
“We had a very diverse and insightful set of discussions about the impact the World Bank Group is making on the ground and in the lives of Georgian citizens – more than 25 years is an impressive legacy and gives you much to build upon,” said Christine Hogan, Executive Director for Canada, Ireland and the Caribbean countries, about the World Bank Group engagement in Georgia. “We leave Georgia better equipped to assess future projects as well as the broader World Bank Group regional engagement.”
While in Ukraine, the Executive Directors visited Maidan Square in Kyiv, where the Revolution of Dignity took place, and learned about this critical time which changed the country’s direction towards the EU four years ago. During their meeting with the representatives of anticorruption agencies and civil society, the EDs discussed progress in the establishment of a transparent government and the full architecture of anticorruption institutions.
Anticorruption reform, together with the opening of the land market, strengthening the financial sector, and privatization, will not only address medium-term growth bottlenecks, but also provide an important immediate signal to strengthen investor confidence. EDs met with Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and members of his cabinet, and with Speaker of the Parliament Andriy Parubiy, to learn about Ukraine’s achievements in stabilizing the economy, cleaning up financial institutions, strengthening the energy sector and embarking on transformational changes in pensions and healthcare.
The EDs visited a hospital and talked to doctors and patients to learn more about ongoing transformations in the sector thanks to healthcare reform adopted last year. They also visited a farm and witnessed first-hand the challenges and opportunities inherent to reaching Ukraine’s enormous agricultural potential.
“We had a very productive visit to Ukraine. The meetings we had gave us an impressively deep dive into Ukraine’s particular history, progress made, particularly in the last few years, and the challenges for the future,” said Melanie Robinson, Executive Director for the United Kingdom. “From our meetings with authorities, stakeholders and beneficiaries, we could see the critical role the World Bank Group has played, for Ukraine and its citizens, and the high regard in which the World Bank Group is held as a partner. We now have a better basis on which to make our assessment of our approach over the coming years, as well as the projects and investments that will come to the Board in the future.”
The recent trips to the region by the Executive Directors are invaluable in helping the Board to better appreciate the distinct circumstances and the diversity of the World Bank Group operations in each of the visited countries.