How can we rationalise and automate public administration processes so that residents of modern cities enjoy better services?
With support from the TaiwanBusiness-EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund, in 2015 the Serbian public utility companies of Belgrade and Kragujevac as well as representatives of three Serbian Ministries found the answer first-hand, thanks to a technical visit to Taipei. This provided a unique opportunity to see one of the world’s most advanced e-governance systems and showed how information and communications technology (ICT) applications can be used in public administration.
The visitors learned about the integration of services offered by different agencies – a process that transformed New Taipei from a suburb of the capital to a smart city in its own right. It enabled the synchronisation of data from city agencies such as the tax department, motor vehicle office, department of education and power company. This brought immense savings to the city’s budget and made many services directly available to citizens on their mobile devices.
Fostering growth through innovation – or building a knowledge-based economy – is a strong focus of the EBRD. That’s why in 2015 we invested €419 million in the ICT sector through 22 projects.
A knowledge economy needs an adequate institutional framework, strong communications infrastructure and a supportive financing environment.
That is why we provided a €1.9 million loan to local broadcast operator Stereo+ in Georgia during 2015, together with TBC Bank, to support the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting in the country. The European Union supports this transaction through a risk-sharing facility which underpins the establishment of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with Georgia.
The digital switchover is critical in modernising the ICT sector, which will help Georgia to meet EU standards. By freeing up frequencies, this operation will lead to more advanced services and a more competitive market – two key goals behind the establishment of the DCFTA. It is only one example of how the EBRD, together with the EU, supports local firms in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in raising product and service standards to prepare them for the DCFTA and boost trade with the European market.
Still in Georgia, a technical cooperation project launched in 2015 and supported by the Slovak Republic is focusing on developing the ICT sector. It seeks to harmonise the country’s legal framework with that of the EU, accelerating investment into broadband connectivity outside urban centres and modernising regulations in the sector.
Integration into regional and global economies
Another strategic focus of the Bank as it re-energises its work of 25 years to promote transition is global and regional integration: the basis of efficient market economies.
We promote integration by supporting strong trade finance offers and helping to introduce higher skills and standards among firms in the real economy. We also help modernise cross-border infrastructure, engage in policy dialogue to improve the local business climate and act as a catalyst for capital flows.
A notable example of this work is the financing, advisory and policy dialogue activity under the above-mentioned DCFTA Facility for SMEs. It was launched in 2015 and is worth approximately €200 million of EU grants for signatories of Association Agreements (to date, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). The Facility allows implementing partners such as the EBRD and the European Investment Bank to support local businesses as they raise product and service standards in preparation for the DCFTA and boost trade with the EU, the world’s largest market.
The Trade Facilitation Programme
Trade-oriented businesses benefit from our Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP), which promotes foreign trade to, from and among countries in the EBRD region. TFP involves over 800 banks in 88 countries. In 2015 donors including the EU, Luxembourg and the TaiwanBusiness-EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund continued to fund training and advisory services for issuing banks.
Thanks to the TFP, following a training programme funded by the EU on processing these transactions, Araratbank in Armenia introduced factoring, an innovative trade finance product that provides a progressive form of financing for trade and distribution.
Furthermore, a boost for economic integration arrived in the form a €37 million EBRD loan to construct the first electricity interconnector between Albania and FYR Macedonia. The loan also covers improvements to the grid efficiency of MEPSO, the Macedonian electricity transmission system operator. The 400 kV cross-border connection will complete the EU’s East-West transmission corridor. The project was supported by the Western Balkans Investment Framework which funded the feasibility study, environmental and social impact assessment and project design activities. The EU also co-financed the project with a €12 million grant provided under the WBIF Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) 2015 funds. In addition, Luxembourg provided funding for technical assistance.
The Bank and its donors will continue to build knowledge-based economies and economic integration regionally and globally.
During his visit to Taipei, Nemanja Vokotic of the Serbian Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications was presented with viable solutions to develop broadband access, integrate information systems and offer e-services to citizens. He was deeply impressed and the spark of innovation was lit. Now, the EBRD stands by to help stoke the fire.