Please note this blog has been updated on 30th July to incorporate the interview with Odile Renaud Basso.
The EBRD’s board of Governors, representing its 71 shareholders, will elect a new president to succeed Sir Suma Chakrabarti this autumn for a 4-year term. CGD’s Mikaela Gavas sits down with the three nominated candidates to discuss their visions for the Bank’s future. The interviews are now online for you to listen to, and you can read the transcripts for all three candidates here: Tadeusz Kościński, Pier Carlo Padoan, and Odile Renaud Basso. Below, we also summarise the key takeaways from their statements.
Historically, until the appointment of Suma Chakrabati in 2012, the EBRD Presidency was mostly a matter of political horse-trading behind closed doors, with the nationals of France and Germany alternating in the top spot. At the Center for Global Development, we believe this appointment should not be based on nationality, in a political trade-off between unrelated institutions, but on the basis of merit and substance. The election is held in a closed session of the Board of Governors, with Governors voting by secret ballot. We hope to make our own modest contribution to this by offering a public forum for the candidates to discuss their vision for the future of the EBRD.
The three candidates for the EBRD Presidency are: Tadeusz Kościński, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Poland; Pier Carlo Padoan, Member of the Italian Parliament; and Odile Renaud Basso, Director General, French Treasury, Ministry of Economy and Finance. Their CVs and statements can be found here.
There is no doubt that the choice of the next president of the EBRD will have important real-world consequences, as the Bank faces an uncertain future on several fronts. The EBRD, initially established in 1991 as a “gap-filler” enabling the transition to market economies in the former Eastern bloc, now faces new issues as it considers a possible expansion of countries of operation into Sub-Saharan Africa. Further uncertainties surround the EBRD’s future role in the wider development finance architecture as well as its role in the global post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
In the interviews, the candidates talk about the implications for the EBRD of the planned expansion to Sub-Saharan Africa. They respond to criticisms of the EBRD for not doing enough on gender. And they talk about how their own professional background equips them to be an effective leader of the institution.
So where do the candidates actually stand on the key issues?
Investments in health infrastructure and the digital economy feature high on both Professor Padoan’s and Mr Kościński’s agendas. Mr Kościński places emphasis on helping the EBRD’s countries of operation in avoiding the middle-income trap by building an “innovation economy”, which would help to create better quality jobs and prevent further brain-drain from outward migration.
In Professor Padoan’s view, a “twin transition” must take place, towards both greater environmental sustainability and the digital economy. He believes the Bank should be more selective, focussing on sectors where most support is needed, and worries about the accumulation of debt stemming from the COVID-19 crisis.
Ms Renaud Basso would focus her efforts firstly on delivery in terms of support to the private sector, and secondly on accompanying countries in environmental and energetic transitions. She emphasises that even while there are pressures to reconsider climate objectives in view of the COVID crisis, it is important to keep direction. She praises the bank’s existing climate policy and commitment but says more could be done to find the projects and to implement them in concrete terms in the coming years.
One of the most notable differences among the candidates is their view with regard to the EBRD’s proposed expansion into Sub-Saharan Africa. While all candidates agree that the EBRD boasts a strong track record and has built up experience which can now be leveraged in other countries, there is less alignment on the details of such an expansion. Mr Kościński hopes to give greater voice to the preferences of shareholders and argues that more analysis and deliberation are needed for any expansion. He also holds the view that the Bank should focus more on the Western Balkans and Central and Southern Europe. Ms Renaud Basso, on the other hand, underlines the strategic importance of the Sub-Saharan region for Europe’s wider stability, and therefore proposes that there is room for extension, especially in countries where the Bank can stick with its core features: development of the private sector and promotion of democracy. Professor Padoan likewise argues for a selective and specific expansion where the bank can have a comparative advantage.
When it comes to the EBRD’s approach to gender, Professor Padoan sees this as part of the broader inclusiveness agenda and warns that the COVID crisis may further accelerate divergences. Ms. Renaud Basso would like to consider setting measurable objectives for gender outcomes in the future and –while she is cautious about the additional burdens of data collection–proposes assessing each project’s impact on gender balance. Mr Kościński, meanwhile, would not like the gender agenda to be limited to setting targets for female employment, and would rather focus on creating quality jobs in the countries of operation and again, avoiding a middle-income trap.
See below for the full interviews and transcripts from the candidates.
Pier Carlo Padoan
Odile Renaud Basso
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.
Image credit for social media/web: EBRD/Dermot Doorly via Wikimedia Creative Commons