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World Bank to launch process of preparation of new partnership strategy for Azerbaijan – Sarah Michael [PHOTO/VIDEO]

11 February 2022 11:37 (UTC+04:00)
World Bank to launch process of preparation of new partnership strategy for Azerbaijan – Sarah Michael [PHOTO/VIDEO]

By Trend

The World Bank is about to launch the process of preparation of the new partnership strategy for Azerbaijan, Sarah Michael, World Bank Country Manager for Azerbaijan, said in an exclusive interview with Trend.

“We have our current strategy, which is about 5 -6 years old. Now the world looks very different than it was 5-6 years ago, particularly, following the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we’re just launching the process of developing our new strategy. There are a couple of stages, we try to analyze what we see as the greatest opportunities for Azerbaijan to continue to grow and develop. We look at what other partners are working on with the government, we look at the government’s own priorities and we’re in the unique position of having the new Azerbaijan 2030 vision to guide our strategy. We will take the forthcoming government strategy, new national socio-economic development strategy that will soon be released and build our new strategy on those five national priorities. I can’t say yet what exactly will be in the strategy, but we think it will be very much built on the foundation of the 2030 vision,” she said.

Michael noted that the World Bank will be supporting things like the green country transition, economic diversification and other government priorities like supporting the private sector, small and medium-sized enterprises, entrepreneurship, job creation, supporting human capital, and a sort of modern, innovative workforce of the country, supporting the environment, green opportunities for growth and other dimensions that fit with the government priorities.

“So, it will be an exciting year for us, as we talk not only to government partners, but also to the people of Azerbaijan to hear more about what they would like the World Bank to focus on,” added the country manager.

Electricity market project in Azerbaijan

Talking about the progress in the project for creating a well-functioning electricity market in Azerbaijan, Sarah Michael pointed out that energy sector is one that the World Bank is really proud to have been partnering with Azerbaijan for many years.

“It is an exciting time globally for developments in the energy market. We’ve been working with the government to look at the building blocks to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the electricity market in the country, ways to promote the maximum reliability, cost effectiveness, with the view to ensuring best possible access for consumers of electricity whether that’s households, schools, businesses. So, we’re trying to draw on the global expertise that we have and the lessons that the world is learning from different power sector markets around the world to help Azerbaijan further develop the electricity market, look at the options for ways to create more private sector participation and to look at building and efficient and viable electricity market for the future,” she explained.

The country manager noted that the World Bank is very excited about the strong commitment the government of Azerbaijan has to renewable energy.

“It is a tremendous thing to see a country that has such a strong history in oil and gas and with a modern innovator in the oil sector, now so strongly committed to being also a global leader on renewable energy. For the World Bank Group, which is the World Bank, but our sister agency, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), we’ve been glad to working with the government to explore the opportunities that the country has in offshore wind potential. We see this work is very much complementing many other initiatives the government has ongoing on renewable energy more broadly, including onshore wind, solar energy,” she explained.

The country manager went on to add that In the offshore wind space, the World Bank is looking at helping the government to assess which different opportunities the country has and different directions, investments, perspectives that the government may want to take on and how best to capitalize on those opportunities.

“We think not only will it have immediate impact on energy consumption here in Azerbaijan, but there would be tremendous potential down the road for Azerbaijan to be an exporter as well of clean renewable energy,” she said.

Project to improve market accessibility along Salyan-Bilasuvar road corridor

“We’re about to celebrate the 30th anniversary of partnership with Azerbaijan this year. Throughout our history, our engagement here, the transport sector has been one that we’ve been really proud to be part of. This latest partnership with the government, something we call regional connectivity and development project, connecting Salyan and Bilasuvar, has some traditional elements of road quality, road safety. It also looks at how to ensure the efficient management of road systems and how to take care and maintain roads. But it also has an innovative component looking at how we look at not only the roads themselves, but potential that the roads give for economic development,” said Sarah Michael.

She noted that the project is looking at creating roadside facilities for local entrepreneurs and to train entrepreneurs to take advantage of the increased volume of traffic that the World Bank expects to see on the road once it is rehabilitated.

“This project was newly introduced last year and has just become what we call effective and is ready to just start work. We have benefit of being in the winter season now. There is a lot of preparatory work going on to finalize the recruitment of the construction companies, supervisors for the road construction. As soon as the weather improves in the summer, it will be possible to do the road works. But there are also experts, who can really help to design and implement the component that is supporting economic development along the road way. I hope that by this summer we can see some of the physical works ongoing and there will be a chance to start seeing local entrepreneurs in that area benefit from some of the new roads and facilities and the trainings that are planned to help them in the long-term. Particularly, there is a significant potential for agricultural producers in the region, as well as crafts producers to take advantage of the potential new customers and new markets that the new road will bring,” added the World Bank’s country manager.

Priority areas for financing

“We’re always ready, when the government asks we do our best to respond. Right now, we’re in the process of developing our new partnership strategy. Part of that process will be to hear from the government exactly which sectors they would like we to focus on,” added Sarah Michael.

The country manager pointed out that Azerbaijan enjoys very strong partnership of many different development agencies, all of whom bring something unique to offer.

“In the case of the World Bank, we think that we’re able to bring projects that really build on global innovation and expertise, things that are multisectoral, that put different aspects of development together. We are also focusing a lot on new approaches that are very digitally forward, smart technologies, but also things that are green. We are emphasizing again our strong commitment to human capital. Particularly, in light of the government’s own priorities, things that relate to economic diversification, jobs, employment, education, healthcare, are all the things that we would be very proud to engage in,” she concluded.

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World Bank to launch process of preparation of new partnership strategy for Azerbaijan – Sarah Michael [PHOTO/VIDEO] - Gallery Image
World Bank to launch process of preparation of new partnership strategy for Azerbaijan – Sarah Michael [PHOTO/VIDEO] - Gallery Image
World Bank to launch process of preparation of new partnership strategy for Azerbaijan – Sarah Michael [PHOTO/VIDEO] - Gallery Image
World Bank to launch process of preparation of new partnership strategy for Azerbaijan – Sarah Michael [PHOTO/VIDEO] - Gallery Image
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