Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

EBRD Adopts New Strategy for Belarus

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has adopted a new three-year strategy for Belarus, which the Bank says will enable it to increase its engagement in the country.

The strategy, subject to the authorities implementing sector-specific reforms aimed at promoting a market economy, was adopted after a consultation process that involved Belarusian civil society groups, the country’s authorities, the international community and "other important stakeholders," the EBRD said in a statement on December 15.

The Bank’s overriding priority for Belarus will remain providing support for the development of the private sector as a means of promoting progress toward the "ultimate goals of political democracy and market economics," the statement said.

The EBRD welcomed what it called the greater willingness shown by the authorities toward working with the international community, and recognized that there "have been encouraging signs of progress on the political and economic fronts."

It said that continued progress in these areas would enable it to work with state-owned entities and increase other activities in the country.

The new strategy spells out how the Bank could, for example, offer technical assistance and financial support for the authorities’ declared intention to develop an open, transparent and competitive privatization program. This would support the package of policy measures agreed between Belarus and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the EBRD said.

The Bank will also consider expanding its small business lending and trade financing program to include, on a selective basis, state-owned banks for the first time, as long as they are commercially oriented and have credible privatization prospects, according to the statement.

Other business priorities for the Bank in Belarus during the new strategy period include promoting energy efficiency and the development of sustainable energy resources; expanding the EBRD’s Trade Facilitation Program to encourage cross-border business; and providing support for the reform and technical upgrade of environmental infrastructure and municipal services.

The level of the Bank`s engagement in Belarus will be calibrated to respond to changes in policy direction and progress in implementing a credible reform agenda, the statement said.

The Bank said that it would continue to conduct an active policy dialogue with the Belarusian authorities on a range of needed reforms and would monitor progress against a set of benchmarks in the political and economic spheres.