Focus on World Bank and Bahrain for EMEA Finance

Phil Thornton contributed two articles to the latest edition of the EMEA Finance magazine out in February 2018. The first was based on a talk with Kristina Georgieva, the new chief exucirve of the World Bank. At the heart of her agenda is achieving the multilateral’s goals of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. Georgieva, who was EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, sees her mission as turning this instrument into an “incentive for people to do the right thing”. “If a country has a lend-management policy for forestry to be protected, not to be chopped down, then the insurance premium ought to have a discount. As a donor, as a finance community, we are funding this discount.” The other angle is to focus on middle income countries — where 50 per cent of poor people still live — and especially in higher-risk economies where the task is to make sure that jobs are created. The article is here.

The second article was an analysis of the success that Bahrain has had in attracting foreign investment to the small island kingdom. We looked at how Bahrain’s economic development board has set out a strategy to attract foreign direct investment and SMEs that will both create jobs and help the Kingdom exploit modern technologies.EDB managing director Simon Galpin set out why Bahrain was investing in a whole raft of projects valued at over £32bn, is equivalent to oits annual GDP. These include the expansion of the airport, the US$5bn upgrading of all the major oil refineries in Bahrain, the enlargement of the Alba aluminium smelter to make it the largest in the world, and a second direct connection to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia for both road and rail to connect to Saudi Arabia and complement the existing King Fahd Causeway. The second factor is what Galpin calls “soft infrastructure” — reforms of business regulations that allows 100% foreign ownership and a revision of insolvency laws aimed at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship by modernising and streamlining the bankruptcy procedures.“ The third trend, which is connected to the regulatory overhaul, is the decision by the Central Bank of Bahrain to introduce the first “regulatory sandbox”. The article is here.

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Focus on the IFC and the EBRD’s equity stakes for EMEAfinance

We wrote and researched two articles for the latest edition of EMEAfinance magazine and website. The first was based on an interview with Tomasz Telma, regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the International Finance Corporation, the private sector-focused arm of the World Bank Group. With the prices of oil and other commodities hitting new low levels he set out his vision for building a model of long-term sustainable growth for a region that is still seen as an unexploited emerging market. The article can be found here.

In the run-up to the annual meetings of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, we looked at the bank’s investment in financial institutions (FI). We spoke with Nick Tesseyman, its managing director for financial institutions, Alexander Saveliev, head of operations and portfolio for FIs as well as with Erik Berglof, who was until recently its chief economist. The article looks at the role that investment in FIs has played over the 25 years from 1991 to 2016 from the initial investments as the countries opened up after the collapse of the Soviet Union, through to the steps taken in the midst of the global financial crisis, to more recent investments in the current tricvy volatile and low-interest rates environment. The article can be found here.