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OSCE and EBRD to deepen co-operation on promoting good governance, connectivity and economic development

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The OSCE and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) agreed today in Vienna to deepen their co-operation and establish a strategic partnership to promote good governance, connectivity and economic development. 

The agreement was formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, Vuk Žugić, and the EBRD Managing Director for Economics, Policy and Governance, Mattia Romani. The MoU, signed on the margins of the 24th OSCE Ministerial Council, aims at leveraging the respective competences, mandates and institutional capacities for a more effective support to the OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation.

 “We consider the EBRD as an essential partner in light of the similar operational focus in promoting well-governed environmental friendly and inclusive economies,” said Žugić.

Fostering transparency and accountability to enhance the business environment, promoting the fight against corruption and supporting the economic empowerment of vulnerable groups, including women and youth, are some of the axes of co-operation included in the agreement.

“Our signing today is only a small symbolic step of what we hope will be an impactful, wide ranging and long lasting co-operation with OSCE focused on concrete steps that will assist our countries in their transition journey,” said Romani.

The MoU builds on previous joint initiatives, aimed at improving anti-corruption measures in Albania through the capacity-building of the national School of Public Administration, the mobilization of the business sector to strengthen anti-bribery practices as well as the enhancement of the capacities of civil society actors in regards to their public oversight role. 

As the largest regional organization dealing with security – the OSCE considers good economic governance as one of the main pillars of its comprehensive approach to stability and sustainable development. With over 3,500 staff and 16 field operations, the OSCE works closely with State authorities and civil society actors to foster co-operation and dialogue for more secure societies in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space.

The EBRD is a multilateral development bank owned by 66 countries as well as the European Union and the European Investment Bank. Most of the countries in which the EBRD invests are OSCE participating States or Partners for Co-operation. The Bank’s investments are aimed at making the economies in its regions competitive, inclusive, well-governed, green and integrated.  

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An economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific

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On the 23 May, in the run-up to SPIEF, a roundtable held jointly between the Roscongress Foundation and St. Petersburg State University of Economics took place, entitled ‘Building a Common Economic Space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: Current Issues and Ways to Overcome Them’.

The experts discussed opportunities related to integration, investment, infrastructure, and innovation, alongside new forms of collaboration for those shaping the economic region of Greater Eurasia. In addition, they brainstormed a joint vision as to how the shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific will develop in the future.

The welcome address was given by Igor Maksimtsev, rector of St. Petersburg State University of Economics. Moderating the session was Sofia Rekord, head of the world economy and international economic relations department of the same institution.

The participants observed that the geo-economic potential of Greater Eurasia – stretching from one ocean to another – is enormous, and needs to be unlocked to a greater extent, regardless of the unpredictability of the global economic environment and political climate. They also laid out the main aim behind the formation of a shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: to facilitate comprehensive interaction and cooperation between countries across the Eurasian continent through stepping up dialogue between all stakeholders. These include government representatives, business figures, the expert community, and research organizations tackling a wide range of issues related to economics, politics, and culture. This should result in continuous development for all parties, and prudent solutions to new challenges.

Other areas of focus included promising forms of economic collaboration in Greater Eurasia: opportunities for dialogue between the EAEU, SCO, ASEAN, and EU; the implementation of the EAEU’s shared digital agenda; prospects for transport, logistics and energy projects; bolstering regional development institutions when unlocking the investment potential of the EAEU; and opportunities to foster greater foresight with regards the future development of a shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Participants from the expert community included Mikhail Voronin, associate professor of the world economy and international economic relations department of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Sergei Dyatlov, professor of the department of general economic theory and the history of economic thought of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Sergei Karaganov, dean of the world economy and international politics faculty of the Higher School of Economics National Research University and honorary chair of the presidium of the International and Defence Policy Council; Dmitry Miropolsky, head of department of general economic theory and the history of economic thought of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Vadim Panin, associate professor of the world economy and international economic relations department of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Vladimir Salamatov, director general of the International Trade and Integration Research Centre; Tatyana Urzhumtseva, director of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies Centre of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Alexander Khodachek, president of the Higher School of Economics National Research University in St. Petersburg; and Slava Khodko, general director of the North-West Development and Investment Promotion Agency.

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Russia’s Economic Recovery Continues: Modest Growth Ahead

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Russia’s economic recovery continues, amidst relatively high oil prices, enhanced macroeconomic stability, gradual monetary loosening, and ongoing momentum in global economic growth, says the World Bank’s latest Russia Economic Report (no. 39 in the series). However, the country’s growth prospects for the period 2018-20 remain modest.

Russia’s growth is forecast at between 1.5% and 1.8% over the next three years. In the short-term, however, this forecast may be adjusted because of changing oil prices – which were projected to average US$ 65/bbl in 2018 and 2019, and US$ 66/bbl in 2020, but which may increase further, especially in the short-term.

In 2017, growth was mainly driven by non-tradable sectors. The unemployment rate declined to 5.2%, while real wages and pensions increased on the back of low inflation. In 2018-20, consumer demand is expected to be the main engine of GDP growth, while the poverty rate is expected to decrease slightly.

“Russia’s economy continued its recovery in 2017, but growth prospects for 2018-20 remain relatively modest, and well below the current global growth average of over 3%,” said Apurva Sanghi, World Bank Lead Economist for Russia, and main author of the report. “In the next few years, greater focus on education, health and infrastructure investments will require the government to find fiscal space through further improvements in tax administration, optimization of non-tax revenues, increased efficiency of public expenditures, and potentially some tax policy changes.”

Moderately tight monetary and fiscal policies, in combination with a favorable external environment, let the Central Bank of Russia reach a record low-level of consumer price index (CPI) inflation, which averaged 3.7% in 2017. Annual inflation now stands below the Central Bank’s target of 4%, while inflation expectations, though trending downward, remain elevated.

Driven by a rebound in disposable income and consumption, the poverty headcount declined marginally in 2017 to 13.2%, after reaching 13.3% in 2016. The poverty rate is projected to decline in 2018, 2019 and 2020 to 12.5, 11.9 and 11.4%, respectively, as income and consumption grow further. Among the factors that could fuel real income growth are a general recovery of the economy and further deceleration of inflation.

“With enhanced macroeconomic stability, the key challenge for achieving higher levels of economic growth is to increase productivity.” said Andras Horvai, World Bank Country Director and Resident Representative for Russia. “This requires improved infrastructure connectivity, strengthened competition across the economy, further improvements in the business climate, vibrant innovation activity and the reduction of the skills gap. Investments in human capital will be key.”

The special topic of the 39th edition of the Russia Economic Report examines how Russia can accelerate its transformation to a digital economy. A strategic focus on digital transformation has enabled Russia to build a national digital infrastructure to support universal broadband and mobile communications. However, to fully reap the socio-economic benefits of this digital infrastructure, Russia will need to implement policies that accelerate the digital transformation of the traditional enterprise sector, and promote R&D, innovation and entrepreneurship.

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UNIDO at SPIEF 2018: Increasing the contribution of women to economic growth and prosperity

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On the opening day of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2018, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) organized an international forum. Titled, “Increasing the contribution of women to economic growth and prosperity: Creating an enabling environment”, the event was staged in cooperation with the OPORA RUSSIA Committee on Women Entrepreneurship Development, with organizational support from the Roscongress Foundation and financial support from the Government of the Russian Federation.

More than 200 participants from all over the world came together to share their experiences on the challenges and best-practice solutions for scaling up successful models for women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. The event was attended by numerous high-level representatives from regional governments of the Russian Federation, as well as from the Russian and international business community, including Scania, SAP, Festo and Didactic, among others. The event was attended by two UNIDO Goodwill Ambassadors, Helen Hai and Janne Vangen Solheim. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe also joined the event as a special guest.

During the opening session, the Deputy Chairperson of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Galina Karelova, commented on the fact that for the second year running leading experts and representatives of the business community were debating opportunities and best practices for strengthening the role of women in economic development with UNIDO’s support at the prestigious SPIEF-2018: “This is strong evidence that the women’s agenda in Russia, as well as at the international level, has reached a fundamentally new level,” she stated.

In his written message sent to the organizers and participants of the Forum, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, welcomed the fruitful cooperation between UNIDO and OPORA RUSSIA in the area of women’s entrepreneurship, and wished the Forum success in developing effective solutions aimed at increasing the role of women in overall efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nadiya Cherkasova, Head of the OPORA RUSSIA Women‘s Entrepreneurship Development Committee, stressed the importance of women’s entrepreneurship as an engine for economic growth and noted the numerous opportunities for scaling up women’s participation in business activities.

Alexander Kalinin, Head of OPORA RUSSIA, mentioned that the country is facing an ambitious goal of boosting national economic growth, where a reliance on small and medium-sized businesses is crucial. He added that OPORA RUSSIA’s work in the area of women’s entrepreneurship is thus very timely, while women’s entrepreneurship is gaining pace and is expected to play a key role in economic development.

Jacek Cukrowski, Chief of UNIDO’s Europe and Central Asia Division, reiterated the importance of forming global alliances and building upon common goals to achieve the economic empowerment of women: “UNIDO has joined hands with OPORA Russia, capitalizing on our knowledge, experience and partners’ networks, for the delivery of concrete, measurable and productive outcomes,” he stated.

Three main sessions of the Forum provided a platform for fruitful debate with an action-oriented outlook on the road ahead, involving policymakers and representatives from the private sector, as well as women’s networks. The development of a global women-leaders talent pool, as a way of fostering network opportunities among women experts from various business sectors, the creation of an e-learning platform for women in business, providing opportunities to take learning and skills development courses to improve managerial and entrepreneurial skills, as well as capacity building initiatives for women entrepreneurs and leaders in different industrial sectors in cooperation with the private sector, business associations and civil society were all discussed during the event.

UNIDO’s representative said that women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship are powerful tools for economic development and are firmly anchored in the Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNIDO will therefore continue in its efforts to advance the economic empowerment of women.The issue will be at the centre of the debate at the upcoming Eurasian Women’s Forum in St. Petersburg in September 2018.

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