TBY talks to Olly Norojono, Resident Representative at the Asian Development Bank, on the role of the bank in encouraging local economic growth.
TBY What are some of the highlights of the ADB’s work in Azerbaijan, and how has the bank been involved in the country’s development since the country joined the ADB in 1999?
OLLY NOROJONO We started our operations in 2000 and have evolved since then with a number of projects. In the public sector, we started with some work in social and livelihood, and infrastructure projects. After that we basically narrowed our focus down to infrastructure. Over the last few years we’ve been working in three sectors: transport, energy, and water supply and sanitation. Our aim was to be more selective with the aim of improving our project implementation ability so as to deliver a better result overall. In the private sector, our work has been focusing on banking and infrastructure.
What do you look at when setting your investment agenda?
We work with the client, and as far as the public sector is concerned, our client is the Azerbaijani government. Therefore, when setting our investment agenda, we look at the government’s own program and its specific needs. Secondly, in terms of long-term strategy, we have set a goal for 2020 and have determined what it is we would like to achieve by then. Our investment decisions, therefore, are the result of a synthesis of our clients’ needs and our long-term strategies.
What are some of the long-term goals you are looking to achieve?
Our 2020 vision contains three main targets, namely to promote inclusive growth, to promote environmentally sustainable growth, and to facilitate and promote regional integration. There are also a number of drivers of social and economic change that we follow closely. These involve the development of the private sector, the encouragement of good governance, support for gender equality, assistance for countries to gain know-how, and to foster partnerships with development institutions, the private sector, and community-based organizations.
Do you think the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model could be a significant tool in the ADB’s strategy in Azerbaijan?
We’ve yet to see a specific policy on the PPP model in Azerbaijan. The potential is there, for sure, but the government needs to create the right regulatory environment for PPPs. We don’t see any plans on paper yet, but I know it’s a topic of discussion in government circles. Hopefully, we’ll see some development on this front in the near future.
Does the ADB have any limitations in regards to the public or private sector and its investments?
The ADB can invest in government projects as well as private projects. Our largest portfolio right now is from the public sector. That being said, our aim for 2020 is for 50% of our total ADB portfolio to be composed of private sector projects. That’s not the target for Azerbaijan in particular, but for the ADB in general.
How would you assess the role of the ADB in the development of SMEs in Azerbaijan?
SME development normally happens through loans to private local banks. Our role is basically to provide guarantees or loans to local banks so that they can provide loans to SMEs. We don’t lend directly to SMEs. We look at a bank’s overall financial performance, its credibility, and its transactions. Based on those factors we decide whether we’ll provide a guarantee/loan or not.
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