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'Wise persons' to scrutinize EU development finance (Devex)

April 16, 2019

From the article:

BRUSSELS — European Union states have given nine economists six months to suggest changes to the bloc’s development financing structure, as the European Investment BankEuropean Commission, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development vie to assert their role in meeting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The mandate for the “High-Level Group of Wise Persons,” agreed last week by European governments, is to set out “the challenges to and opportunities for rationalising” European development finance, particularly the respective roles of EIB and EBRD.

The group will look at what best delivers “development impact,” “the respective strengths and weaknesses of the mandates and instruments of all actors involved,” and “the strategies put forward by the EIB, the EBRD and the Commission to further develop their mandates with a view to enhancing private sector development and sovereign lending, including, as appropriate, in least‑developed and fragile countries.”

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In September last year, the commission declared that it wanted to play a leading role in steering investments from European development actors, including national players such as the Agence Française de Développement. That clashed with the vision of EIB President Werner Hoyer, who has said there are “many inefficiencies” in the European development landscape and is pursuing plans for an EIB subsidiary focused on projects outside the EU. Meanwhile, EBRD is now considering a move into sub-Saharan Africa, to be decided at its annual meeting next year.

“Collectively, the EU invests more in developing countries than the rest of the world combined,” said Mikaela Gavas from the Center for Global Development think tank. “But the impact of its investment is mired in a system that is fragmented and uncoordinated and thus unable to meet its full potential of taking a leading role in sustainable development.”

Gavas said the wise persons’ group could propose a division of labor between EIB and EBRD, but the “problem is that the objectives, modes of operating and the expertise of the two banks are very different. There cannot simply be an arbitrary division between lending operations in the public and private sectors, or Europe and Africa.”

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Photo of Mikaela Gavas
Co-Director, Development Cooperation in Europe and Senior Policy Fellow