On March 18 and 19, 2010, Mr. Philippe Le Houerou, the World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Region, and Mr. Martin Raiser, Country Director for Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, visited Belarus to discuss the Government liberalization program, future directions for structural reforms, opportunities for attracting foreign investment and review the Bank’s cooperation with Belarus. The Bank’s delegation met with the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, the Governor of the National Bank, and the Head of the Presidential Administration.
Mr. Philippe Le Houerou, the World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Regions visits Belarus to discuss the Government liberalization program, future directions for structural reforms, opportunities for attracting foreign investment and review the Bank’s cooperation with the country
The World Bank representatives participated at a workshop Unlocking Recovery and Growth Potential through Structural Reforms organized in cooperation with the Government and the IMF. The workshop discussed choices for advancing structural reforms to improve Belarus’ competitiveness and return to the high growth rates of recent years while mitigating the social impact of the necessary structural transformation of the economy.
“Over the last decade, Belarus has done well on economic growth and poverty reduction. Belarus has relied more than other countries on state planning, directed lending and investments in flagship State Owned Enterprises to modernize production and maintain Belarus’ position on international markets,” said Mr. Houerou opening a workshop - “The challenge today is how to shift from a state-led capital intensive growth model to a productivity driven model of growth where the private sector becomes a second engine. The policies needed to support this transformation are complex. Their appropriate sequencing is critical.”
As part of his program in Belarus Mr. Houérou visited School №8 in Minsk, rehabilitated under the Social Infrastructure Retrofitting Project (SIRP). The school has reduced its energy consumption by over 50 percent in recent years by replacing windows and lighting, and as a result has also significantly improved learning conditions for kids. The SIRP has helped to retrofit about 700 social sphere buildings serving 550 000 people in 116 settlements across the country to date. In 2008 it received additional financing of the World Bank to retrofit about a hundred additional schools and hospitals across the country.
Mr. Philippe Le Houérou concluded his visit by meeting the management of the BELAZ plant in Zhodino. BELAZ holds 30 percent of the world market for heavy mining equipment and is one of Belarus’ flagship state owned enterprises. The Vice President learned about the enterprise’s history since its launch in the 1950s, its most recent conversion into a JSC and the company’s response to the global economic crisis. Restructuring state owned enterprises and bringing in strategic investors is one of the key challenges for structural reforms in Belarus.
Belarus joined the World Bank in 1992. Since then, the Bank’s lending commitments in Belarus have totaled US$643 million for 9 projects; about thirty national programs received grant financing totaling US$ 18 million. Belarus is currently receiving World Bank financing for 4 infrastructure projects in the energy sector, the rehabilitation of public buildings, and the water and waste water sector.