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World Bank Project to Support Modernization of Higher Education in Belarus

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The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today a €100 million project to support the modernization of Belarus’ higher education sector, a crucial step towards achieving a modern university system and boosting economic growth potential.

Thanks to the project, laboratories and research, teaching and learning facilities in 18 Higher Education Institutions in Belarus will be modernized with up-to-date equipment, while buildings in several institutions will be rehabilitated.

“In 2015, Belarus joined the Bologna Process, a pan-European higher education reform initiative. This important step resulted in a major commitment to improving higher education,” said Nina Arnhold, World Bank Global Lead for Tertiary Education and Senior Education Specialist. “With this project, we are pleased to support the country’s ongoing efforts to align university outcomes with the demands of the 21st century labor market. We are also committed to supporting independent quality assurance and modernization of the teaching and learning environment.”

With support from the project, Belarusian universities and colleges will have opportunities to participate more actively in international programs and initiatives. In addition, the project will contribute to improving the quality of Belarusian tertiary education, through the establishment of a National Quality Assurance Agency which will be fully aligned with the Bologna Process.

“Between 2020 and 2025, around 300,000 students and academic staff will benefit each year from an improved teaching and learning environment, thanks to this project,” said Alex Kremer, World Bank Country Manager for Belarus. “This is the intellectual capital that could transform Belarus from a resource-based economy into a knowledge economy.”

Since the Republic of Belarus joined the World Bank in 1992, lending commitments to the country have totaled $1.9 billion. The active investment lending portfolio financed by the World Bank in Belarus includes nine projects totaling $942.71 million.

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Development

Latin America and the Caribbean: missing the chance to invest in a sustainable recovery?

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A new platform showcasing real-time data from 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean has revealed that on environmentally sustainable post-COVID-19 spending, Latin America and the Caribbean lags behind the rest of the world: 0.5 per cent of total spending and 2.2 per cent of long-term recovery spending was environmentally friendly in 2020 compared to 2.8 per cent and 19.2 per cent globally.

The tool, which is based on the Global Recovery Observatory, an initiative led by the Oxford University Economic Recovery Project (OUERP), and supported by UNEP, the International Monetary Fund and GIZ through the Green Fiscal Policy Network (GFPN), reveals that only six of the region’s 33 countries dedicated more than 0.1 per cent of their GDP to recovery spending. A small number did allocate a significant proportion of their budgets to post-COVID-19 efforts, including Chile (14.9 per cent), Saint Kitts and Nevis (13.3 per cent), Saint Lucia (11.3 per cent), Bolivia (10.5 per cent) and Brazil (9.26 per cent).

The examination of over 1,100 policies shows that approximately 77 per cent of the region’s total spending of USD 318 billion was allocated to rescue measures addressing short-term threats and saving lives, while only 16.1 per cent has focused so far on long-term recovery plans to revitalize the economy, given the limited financial resources of many of the region’s countries. On average, Latin America and the Caribbean has allocated USD 490 per capita expenditure to post-COVID-19 recovery, compared to USD 650 in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies, and USD12,700 in advanced economies.

The region has been severely affected by COVID-19. Home to 8 per cent of the world’s population, Latin America and the Caribbean has reported some 29 per cent of deaths from the pandemic, while it is estimated that in 2020, the region had a GDP contraction of 7 per cent.

“I applaud the initiative of Latin American and Caribbean ministers to track their progress towards greener recoveries. Our Tracker shows that overall, the region’s green spending does not yet match the severity of the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution,” said Piedad Martin, Acting Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. “In order to transition to more sustainable and inclusive economies, nations in the region must build from this good start of tracking to further align their development priorities with green recovery.”

To date, according to the Tracker, a higher proportion of the region’s recovery budget has been spent on unsustainable sectors (USD 7.4 billion) than on environmentally-sustainable initiatives (USD 1.5 billion). 74 per cent of environmentally-negative spending has been directed to fossil energy infrastructure, and 13 per cent to unsustainable port and airport infrastructure, which is expected to lead to an increase in carbon emissions.

“The situation of the region is dire, the response to the pandemic is leading us to an increase in debt, limiting our capacity to direct investments to environmental sustainability. Yet, placing climate action as the engine of recovery has never been as important. Our survival and the competitiveness of the region is at stake due to climate change,” said Costa Rica’s Minister of the Environment and Energy Andrea Meza, who will chair the XXIII meeting of the regional Forum of Ministers of the Environment in 2022. “I call on governments, the international community and the private sector to support Latin America and the Caribbean in responding to this crisis through investments that allow us to meet the Paris Agreement.”

High-impact chances for the region are numerous and require a mix of policy measures. Key opportunities await in sustainable energy, in particular non-conventional renewable energy and energy efficiency; investments in zero-emission transport –with a special focus on public transport—; investments in nature-based solutions to ensure adaptation in key sectors, such as agriculture, and urban centres, where most of the population lives.

“The region has reached an economic crossroads. Either governments continue to support the old, dying industries of the past or invest in sustainable industries which will drive future prosperity. The new economic opportunities for the region are monumental and wise leaders will embrace them,” said Brian O’Callaghan, lead researcher at the Oxford University Economic Recovery Project.

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Cities in Southern Uzbekistan to Improve Urban Infrastructure and Municipal Services

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Residents of cities located in two southern regions of Uzbekistan will benefit from improved urban infrastructure and municipal services, thanks to Additional Financing for the Medium-Size Cities Integrated Urban Development Project (MSCIUDP), approved today by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. The project will be supported by a $100 million concessional credit. The International Development Association, the part of the World Bank Group, will provide it to the Government of Uzbekistan at a very low-interest rate and with a repayment period of 30 years.

This additional financing will expand the geographic scope of the ongoing project funded by the World Bank that has been implemented in Tashkent (Yangiyul and Pskent), Bukhara (Kagan) and Namangan (Chartak) regions since 2019.   

The new project activities will cover selected mid-sized cities in Kashkadarya and Surkhandarya regions of Uzbekistan. The final list of all project cities in this part of the country will be validated over the next 6 months, in consultation with the regional and municipal governments (hokimiyats), based on local needs and economic potential.

Medium-size cities participating in the project in Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya regions will benefit from an integrated and specifically designed program of investments that will include the following: improved and expanded water supply and sanitation networks; upgraded electricity infrastructure and street lights, as well as vehicular, pedestrian and multimodal accesses to public transportation; upgraded energy-efficient public buildings; reconstructed public spaces and parks, street networks and associated infrastructure; and restored objects of cultural heritage.

The majority of the cities covered by the project have untapped growth potential. Many are located along strategic transport corridors; some have prominent tourist attractions; and most are well-positioned to create a range of quality service jobs for the surrounding rural areas.

All investments under the project will follow the most contemporary green design principles and aim to achieve universal accessibility. About 4 million people, equivalent to about 70 percent of the combined population of both regions, are expected to, directly and indirectly, benefit from the improved urban infrastructures, municipal services, and job opportunities created thanks to the project. 

“Many countries have effectively used urbanization as a development engine, like in the case of China, South Korea and Thailand. To achieve this, Uzbekistan needs to catch up with the backlog of urban infrastructure and services and upgrade public spaces to make cities more attractive and productive,” said Marco Mantovanelli, World Bank Country Manager for Uzbekistan. “Medium-size cities are growing fast here and have the potential for generating entry-level service jobs for youth. The combination of investments in infrastructure and capacity building of regional and municipal ‘hokimiyats’ to effectively manage and maintain urban assets will transform cities into comfortable places to live, work and do business. We are glad to support the Government in achieving this important goal.”

To complement the investments, the project will also offer additional support to regional and municipal hokimiyats through providing equipment and training to improve management and maintenance of urban infrastructure and assets, as well as modern environmental practices and green approaches to urban management.

Additionally, the project will help the Government to continue implementing reforms critical for sustainable urban development, including administrative and budgetary reform that should transfer more powers and resources to hokimiyats, and urban planning reform that should help ensure cities grow in an orderly and sustainable manner. 

The Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan will continue implementing project activities in all five regions in close coordination with hokimiyats of the participating medium-size cities and regions, as well as key line ministries and state agencies. 

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Global value chains in the aftermath of the pandemic: What role for the G20?

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Can embedding inclusive and sustainable transformation at the core of multilateral efforts help ensure that countries benefit from integration in global value chains (GVCs)? This was the question addressed by a stellar line-up of speakers brought together for a webinar organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), together with the International Affairs Institute (IAI) and in cooperation with the Kiel Institute for the World Economy and the German Institute for Global Area Studies.

In the framework of the T20 Spring Roundtables, the virtual event brought together more than 200 participants worldwide. The discussion focused on inclusiveness and sustainability in global value chains in the aftermath of the coronavirus disruptions, and served as a platform to develop ideas and recommendations for the G20.

UNIDO’s Director General, LI Yong, said that to build back better, “we can stimulate inclusiveness by focusing our policy efforts on building state-of-the-art capabilities in small and medium-sized enterprises (…) and sustainability through smart regulation, including a new generation of trade and investment agreements.” Moreover, he stressed the need “to increase our joint efforts towards strengthening multilateral approaches to policymaking.

Pier Carlo Padoan, the Vice President of the IAI and T20 Italy Lead Co-Chair of Task Force 3: Trade, Investment and Growth, echoed the sentiment and brought the focus onto how we can strengthen the backbone of global value chains, and reaffirmed that “the G20 must retain its leadership in building up a new paradigm of sustainable growth,” despite the deep flaws and scars created by the coronavirus crisis in the current system.

“Making global supply chains fair and sustainable is a task in which policymakers and private enterprises have to engage,” said Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary in Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. He said Germany’s Due Diligence Act is looking to address these challenges holistically by ensuring higher social standards in global value chains, leveling the playing field, and enhancing transparency in supply chains.

When looking at the playing field, buyers and suppliers find themselves in uneven positions, depending on the governance landscape. In this context, Beata Javorcik, Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), underlined that “we need clear messaging about commitments to sustainability, we need to reduce information asymmetries,” as this will enhance the inclusiveness of global value chains, allowing for firms of all sizes to engage with and participate in global trade.

Diving deeper into global trade, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, highlighted the importance of ensuring transparency and predictability for greater participation of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in global value chains. Coke-Hamilton said this can be achieved by mainstreaming and facilitating compliance with international standards, supporting innovation and digital technologies, and promoting sustainability.

Marco Felisati, Business 20 Sherpa and Confindustria’s Deputy Director of Internationalization and Trade Policy, echoed the panel’s view that “there is no trade-off between competitiveness and sustainability.” He highlighted that “on the contrary, complying with high sustainability factors is a competitiveness factor, and being competitive is a prerequisite for GVCs to be sustainable and inclusive.”

Mario Cimoli, Deputy to the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), reaffirmed that “manufacturing continues to be crucial.” He said in Latin America the pandemic has highlighted that manufacturing remains a key issue, as it is the only way “to expand industry, create diversification, and to sustain wages.”

 As many countries are opening up again after a year of restrictions, speakers agreed that the time is now to look beyond the pandemic and focus on ensuring that global value chains become more inclusive and sustainable. The panel agreed that international coordination through multilateral bodies such as the G20 will be vital in moving forward.   

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