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Uzbekistan to Continue Market Reforms Despite Challenges of COVID-19 Pandemic

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Anna Bjerde, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, met with President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Photo: Press Service of the President of Uzbekistan

Anna Bjerde, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, paid her first official visit to Uzbekistan on May 14-18. Ms. Bjerde met with the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, senior government and parliamentary officials, representatives of civil society and the private sector, and international development partners.

“The World Bank welcomes the Government’s plans to continue a transparent and inclusive market transition and implement difficult but much-needed market reforms, despite the COVID-19 crisis. We will further support the reform agenda through our new Country Partnership Framework. It will define priority areas for the Bank’s financing and advisory services from 2022 to 2026 and will be aligned with Uzbekistan’s next development strategy,” said Ms. Bjerde. 

The World Bank Vice President had productive talks with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Chairperson of the Senate of Oliy Majlis (Parliament) Tanzila Narbaeva, First Deputy Chairperson of the Senate of Oliy Majlis Sodiq Safoyev, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Jamshid Kuchkarov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov, and Minister of Finance Timur Ishmetov. 

The discussions focused on the Government’s efforts to enact market reforms, reduce poverty and unemployment, raise the living standards of the population in rural areas, improve access to health, education, social protection, and water supply services, create conditions conducive for private sector-led growth, and improve the business and investment climate. 

The parties also considered the progress Uzbekistan has achieved in the areas of reforming public institutions, state-owned enterprises, financial, energy, transport, and other economic sectors, eliminating forced labor and reducing gender inequality, introducing a green growth model, and expanding trade and transport connectivity across Central Asia. 

Ms. Bjerde participated in a signing ceremony for World Bank loans totaling $289 million and a Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs grant of $7.8 million. The financing will allow the Government to implement projects on improving access to water supply and sanitation services for 500,000 people in three regions of Uzbekistan, and developing a market-oriented National Innovation System.  

During her visit to Tashkent, the World Bank Vice President also met with representatives of civil society, the private sector, and international development partners to discuss how the Bank can work more effectively with these stakeholders to help the Government continue important reforms.   

Uzbekistan was one of four countries in Ms. Bjerde’s first official visit to Central Asia. She also visited the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

Ms. Bjerde, a Swedish national, became the World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia on May 1, 2020. In this position, she leads the Bank’s strategic, analytical, operational, and knowledge work in the region.

The World Bank supports Uzbekistan through technical assistance and the financing of 24 projects totaling around $4.3 billion. These projects provide support in critical areas such as macroeconomic reforms, agriculture, health, education, water supply and sanitation, energy, transport, social protection, urban and rural development, as well as mitigation of health, economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Moscow is in the Top7 Intelligent Communities in the world

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For the second time since 2017, Moscow made it to the final stage of the Intelligent Community Awards rating. It involves the cities that show best practices in the development of communications, experts training, the use of innovation, digital inclusion, the involvement of residents in city management, and the maintenance of sustainability principles. The prestigious international rating is issued annually by the Intelligent Community Forum.

The first stage, which took place in February this year, 21 cities from eight countries were selected. At the second stage, an international group of independent experts selected seven finalists. Alongside with to Moscow, there are cities from Canada, Australia, Vietnam and Brazil.

The experts noted the capital’s achievements in the development and use of communications, the residents’ involvement in the city government, the training of IT-specialists, enhancing digital literacy, as well as the support and implementation of innovations.

“To participate in the prestigious international rating, our team in cooperation with the specialists of the Moscow Innovation Agency prepared a detailed description of the most significant implemented digital projects in the field of communication development and use, resident participation in the city management, training IT-specialists, improving digital literacy, supporting and implementing innovations, as well as responsible consumption and protection of natural resources. Due to continuous development of the city’s digital technologies over the past four years, Moscow is among the Smart21 cities for the third time and for the second time is among top seven Smart Communities, which certainly shows that our work is highly appreciated by foreign specialists,” said Eduard Lysenko, the head of the Moscow Department of Information Technologies. 

The jury assessed not only how developed the urban infrastructure is, but also how effectively it is adapted to new economic challenges. In the field of broadband Internet access development, Moscow presented the project of the city Wi-Fi network. It includes more than 21 thousand points of access to free Internet, as well as 5G pilot zones launched jointly with telecom operators to estimate the use of fifth-generation communication technologies.

In the field of highly qualified personnel training in Moscow, the educational projects of the Moscow Government were noted. These projects are devoted to pre-vocational education, namely arranging industry specific training in Moscow schools, as well as to the voluntary qualification examination. It is organized jointly with the corporate partners to assess and select students according to employers’ requirements.

The project “My Career” by Moscow employment center was also presented among the important initiatives. Residents can get assistance in finding suitable vacancies, a professional career counselling, psychological support, as well as take part in employment-related trainings and webinars. The center focuses on the most vulnerable categories in the labor market: mothers of young children, youth, applicants of pre-retirement specialists, people with disabilities, low-income families.

The “Innovation” section presented “Moscow Accelerator” – the flagship project of the Moscow Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Development, aimed at scaling innovative solutions in promising industries in partnership with major corporations – market leaders. Another project in this area is the Moscow Innovation Cluster. It was created for the development of innovative organizations, projects and cooperation between the city and large companies, industry, small and medium-sized businesses, educational and scientific organizations. The online platform “i.moscow” provides opportunities for interaction between cluster participants.

“The Moscow innovation ecosystem” is also in the rating. The program allows the developers to test their technologies at urban and commercial sites before they are released on the market, and the authorities and potential customers can evaluate their effectiveness.

The project “Moscow Longevity” represents the field of inclusion development, creation of intellectual communities and improvement of people’s access to digital technologies. The project is aimed at creating a network of free leisure for the older generation of Muscovites and expanding the opportunities for their participation in cultural, educational, physical fitness, health and other activities was noted.

The Smart City hall offers a visual demonstration of new technologies for residents of all ages. This is a permanent exhibition of Smart City technologies located on the territory of VDNKh. You can visit the hall for free, and guided tours are offered several times a day.

In the hall there is a 5G democenter, which is part of the capital’s pilot innovation testing program. Several technological projects involving the fifth-generation communication networks are already being tested at this site. This is wireless optical communication in 5G standard, VR and AR in architecture and construction, virtual reality training via 5G, computer vision for drones and access control with remote temperature measurement.

The involvement of citizens in improving the quality of life is achieved through the digital ecosystem of interaction between the city and residents. The Active Citizen project allows every resident to take part in voting on topical issues of city development, the Our City portal allows you to report a problem in housing services and amenities, and the City of Ideas enables you to offer your ideas for crowdsourcing.

The city also presented social projects. Among them are the charity service on the mos.ru portal, which helps residents make donations to verified Moscow non-profit organizations and foundations, and the “Search for Lost and Found Animals” service which helps find a lost pet. A number of projects are aimed at environmental sustainability. Namely a set of services aimed at reducing water consumption in Moscow (a service for transmitting readings of water meters, an interactive test and the project “The Price of Water” based on AR-technology), as well as the portal “MosEcoMonitoring”. It allows residents to monitor the condition and quality of air in their city or district online in real time.

Intelligent Community Forum is a non-governmental organization headquartered in New York. ICF rating has been issued since 2005. The current leader of the Intelligent Community Awards is Tallinn. The new leader will be announced in autumn.

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Economic Recovery Plans Essential to Delivering Inclusive and Green Growth

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EU member states must ensure careful and efficient implementation of economic recovery plans that support inclusion and growth to bounce back from the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, says a new World Bank report.  

The World Bank’s latest EU Regular Economic Report – entitledInclusive Growth at a Crossroads – finds that the unprecedented and exceptional policy response of governments and EU institutions has cushioned the worst impacts on employment and income. However, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep-seated inequalities, halting progress in multiple areas including gender equality and income convergence across the EU member states. A further three to five million people in the EU today are estimated to be ‘at risk of poverty,’ based on national thresholds benchmarked before the crisis.

The report highlights that effective recovery programs can reinforce progress on the green and digital transitions underway across the region. With the crisis continuing to unfold, government support schemes and the rollout of vaccines in a timely manner will remain essential to bolstering the resilience of firms, workers, and households. Given the longevity of the crisis and the impact on the most vulnerable, many governments have opted to extend the duration of support throughout 2021.

“A green, digital and inclusive transition is possible if economic policy is increasingly geared towards reforms and investment in education, health and sustainable infrastructure,” said Gallina A. Vincelette, Director for the European Union Countries at the World Bank.

With an output contraction of 6.1 percent in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the sharpest peacetime recession in the EU. Governments will need to ensure targeted and active labor market policies are in place to support an inclusive recovery. The report highlights that special attention should be given to already vulnerable workers such as youth, the self-employed, and those in informal employment. These groups are more likely to face employment adjustments during the crisis and may face longer spells of unemployment or periods outside the labor force.

Women have been disproportionately impacted by work disruptions during the pandemic, particularly in the sectors facing the worst effects of the crisis. This was also highlighted in the 2020 Regular Economic Report produced by the World Bank, which found that at least one in five women will face difficulty returning to work compared to one in ten men. It has been harder for women to resume work due to the sectors and occupations that they are working in and because of the additional care burdens that have fallen disproportionately on their shoulders – a manifestation of increasing inequities in home environments.

“As recovery takes hold, it will be important for carefully targeted and coordinated policy support to continue to mitigate the impact of the crisis, with measures increasingly targeted towards vulnerable households and viable firms. Policy makers will also need to strike a balance between helping those that need it most, while enhancing the productivity of the economy and keeping debt at manageable levels,” added Vincelette.

World Bank’s Regional Action in Europe and Central Asia

To date, the World Bank has committed more than $1.7 billion to help emerging economies in Europe and Central Asia mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. Since April 2020, around $866 million has been approved through new emergency response (MPA/Vaccines) projects. In addition, up to $904 million is being reallocated, used, or made available from existing projects and lending, including additional financing, to help countries with their COVID-19 response.

The World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects suggests that growth will be strong but uneven in 2021. The global economy is set to expand 5.6 percent—its strongest post-recession pace in 80 years. The recovery largely reflects sharp rebounds in some major economies.

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ADB Calls for Just, Equitable Transition Toward Net Zero in Asia and Pacific

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Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa today called for countries in Asia and the Pacific to take bold action to address climate change while ensuring fair and equitable economic growth amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The task of addressing climate change is not only urgent, but also inextricably linked to an inclusive and lasting recovery from the pandemic,” said Mr. Asakawa at the Indonesian Ministry of Finance–ADB 2021 International Climate Conference. “With shared commitment and international cooperation, we can make the transition to net zero and achieve climate resilience, so that our region emerges stronger than before.”

The one-day virtual conference attracted about 800 people from the public and private sectors, development partners, think tanks, and academia to discuss international good practices that can help ADB developing member countries transition to low-carbon, resilient economies and pursue a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event highlighted Indonesia’s commitment to meeting its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, as well as steps it has taken to support the development of a low-carbon, resilient economy.

“Indonesia has mainstreamed climate change into our National Medium-Term Development Plan 2020–2024 and established a national Action Plan, both on mitigation and adaptation,” said Indonesian Vice Minister of Finance Suahasil Nazara. “In the near future, we will use this recovery phase post-COVID-19 pandemic to pursue our climate and sustainability agenda.” Indonesia will chair the G20 in 2022.

Asia and the Pacific is responsible for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions. Recent analysis predicts that global energy-related CO2 emissions will grow by nearly 5% in 2021, as demand for coal, oil, and gas rebounds. About 80% of the growth in coal demand is expected to come from Asia.

The Paris Agreement aims to keep the rise in global temperatures to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. ADB’s sovereign operations will be fully aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement by 1 July 2023 and its nonsovereign operations by 1 July 2025. ADB will scale up investments in adaptation and resilience to at least $9 billion from 2019 to 2024 to support Asia and the Pacific’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures will contribute to ADB’s commitment to deliver $80 billion in climate finance between 2019 and 2030.

Mr. Asakawa said ADB will support Indonesia’s transition toward a low-carbon, resilient economy and help the country meet its NDC targets. Strengthening resilience is one of the three focus areas in ADB’s country partnership strategy for Indonesia. That includes climate change mitigation and adaptation and green recovery, as well as disaster risk management and finance.

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