European development bank chief takes reform agenda to G20 talks in India

London: The President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), of which India is a shareholder, will arrive in India on Sunday for a G20 finance summit with the reform agenda for multilateral development banks (MDBs) high on the list of priorities.

Odile Renaud-Basso, the first woman head of an MDB as EBRD president, will begin her four-day visit in Gandhinagar for the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors gathering.

From Gujarat, she is scheduled for a high-level roundtable with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi to discuss opportunities for the Indian private sector in EBRD countries of operations in Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Turkey and Eastern Europe.

“The key discussion which is relevant for us is everything related to the MDB reform agenda, which is very prominent in the G20 discussion now,” said Renaud-Basso during a pre-visit interview.

“India has a very important role to play as the president of the G20 at a time of a number of global challenges because of the geopolitical context.

“So, the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting has an important role to play in a number of areas, from discussing the macroeconomic situation, policy coordination, financial sector development in this new environment with high inflation which has triggered some turmoil in the financial sector… [and] there’s also some implication on the financing condition and financial flows for emerging markets,” she said.

London-headquartered EBRD is an MDB set up in 1991 after the fall of the Berlin Wall to promote private and entrepreneurial initiative in emerging Europe.

It invests in emerging economies across continents according to a set of criteria that aim to make its countries more competitive, better governed, greener, more inclusive, more resilient and more integrated.

“We have been working with Indian private companies and we are looking to develop co-investment or co-finance projects.

“We have a sort of sectoral approach globally speaking on areas where we believe that cooperation would be the most relevant, and the first one is green sector and climate change, but also pharmaceutical, IT, agribusiness and services sector, so it’s quite large,” the EBRD chief said.

According to official bank figures, as of June this year, the value of joint India-EBRD investment stood at USD 1.1 billion – with EBRD finance accounting for USD 881 million and India investment USD 221 million.

This investment has been strong in Turkey, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia and broken down by sectors, it covers financial institutions, industry, commerce and agribusiness.

India is one of EBRD’s 71 national shareholders and its president said she is keen to strengthen ties with the country’s business community in order to step up joint investments with Indian firms.

In May, Renaud-Basso secured approval for the EBRD’s first expansion into the Global South to soon start investing in up to six countries in sub-Saharan Africa – a region she agrees could be of interest to Indian investors.

The central focus for the development bank during the G20 and wider discussions in India would be around ensuring a continued commitment towards achieving the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) and net zero climate targets.

“The global challenge is the climate crisis and the need to accelerate investment to facilitate green transition, because the window of opportunity to do what is needed before 2030 is shrinking very quickly,” Renaud-Basso said.

There is some increase in financing and some progress made, but not at the pace that is needed in order to reach the target, she said.

“So, there is a strong concern that we are not doing enough and hence the focus on how MDBs can contribute to this agenda,” she said.

“A very important part of our role is not only to provide financing, but also to facilitate the development of the project, to work with countries on their policies in order to unlock projects for investment… and having the right framework to develop renewables and attract private sector investment for renewables,” she added.

Renaud-Basso succeeded the Indian-origin EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti, who stepped down in July 2020 after serving two full four-year terms.