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B&R nations to further benefit from China's initiative: EBRD economist

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-11-24 10:41

LONDON - Countries along the Belt and Road can benefit from China's Belt and Road Initiative by seeking further economic integration, greater investment and better governance.

"The continued focus on strengthening institutions, investing in sustainable infrastructure and integration into the global economy should remain the priority for Central Asian economies," Sergei Guriev, chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), told Xinhua on Thursday.

The international development bank launched on Wednesday its annual transition report at its headquarters in London, a health check for economic and social progress in the EBRD area, which covers emerging economies from the Western Mediterranean, much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The EBRD this year identified an upturn in the pace of reform in emerging economies, four years after reporting that reforms were stalling or even being thrown into reverse.

In its "Transition Report 2017-18: Sustaining Growth," the bank charted progress and setbacks in reforms in the past year and identified many remaining challenges.

In 2013, the EBRD warned in its annual transition report that a failure to restart a reform process could leave emerging economies trailing behind their more advanced neighbors.

The EBRD responded to this challenge by stepping up its own support for policy reforms in 38 economies where it invests to promote sustainable open-market economies.

"Attracting sustainable infrastructure investment to these countries will promote accelerated economic growth as well as job creation in their isolated sub-national regions," said Guriev.

In Azerbaijan, authorities has made progress in the restructuring of the country's largest bank, IBA, in preparation for its eventual privatization, the EBRD reported.

Integration has advanced in Southern and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro all having made major progress in road-building.

However, the report noted important road projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been delayed by failure to amend the law on fuel excise duties that would allow an increase in prices.

"Our research identifies large infrastructure investment gaps in all our countries -- including the BRI countries," Guriev said.

The EBRD urged reforms aimed at making economies more competitive, and highlighted Uzbekistan, where it has begun investing again after a seven-year pause.

Uzbekistan remained low on the list of overall transition successes, but the report pointed to a move to freely convert the Uzbek currency, which is seen as a test for other reforms.

Several countries have made important progress in privatization, with projects in Greece covering concessions for Piraeus port, regional airports and the sale of the railway company TrainOSE.

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