Marina Vasilieva (7-095)7457000
Moscow, October 20, 2005 - World Bank Group President Paul Wolfowitz visited Russia for two days as an official guest of the Russian Government – his first visit since taking over as head of the global financial institution.
Wolfowitz’s trip was focused on the country's role in the global economy and its contribution to the development agenda as the country prepares to chair the Group of Eight next year. He also took the opportunity to learn about the challenges the country is facing and how the partnership with the World Bank Group is helping to address them.
"As Russia's economy has changed, our role here in Russia has changed, and I am sure it will continue to change in future. I am looking forward to learning how we can best strengthen and continue this partnership," Wolfowitz said upon arrival.
On the first leg of his visit to Russia, the World Bank Group President in an informal setting met with the representatives of Russia's think-tank and civil society community to hear from their leaders about the main issues being debated in the country's domestic economic and global development agenda.
An extensive exchange of views during the breakfast with the G7 and EU Ambassadors on key economic developments in the country gave Wolfowitz a clear view of Russia's bilateral cooperation and its preparations for hosting the G8.
President Wolfowitz's visit to a rural school and medical facilities of the Moscow Oblast gave him a first-hand experience of another major challenge facing the country -- investing in people -- an essential prerequisite for Russia's continued growth and prosperity. The launch of a Moscow Internship Program and a meeting with young interns who will be working at the World Bank’s Moscow Office underscored that the future of Russia is its youth.
"The World Bank Group's role in Russia has evolved over time. Today our partnership is less about money and more about the transfer of ideas and expertise to address key priorities in health, education, regional development and the fostering of public-private partnerships,” said Wolfowitz.
During the trip President Wolfowitz met with representatives of several regional governments on regional development and local governance. Regional representatives expressed strong interest in the possibility of sub national lending without sovereign guarantees.
The meeting, attended by Dmitry Kozak, Presidential Envoy for the Southern Federal Okrug as well as other officials, discussed, among other issues, the essential role of the government in putting forward a development strategy for the Northern Caucuses and its coordination, as well as the major economic and social challenges facing the region.
Wolfowitz also participated in launch of the Hydromet Modernization Project supported by the Bank and other donors. The Project aims to minimize the threat to local economies from climate variations and extreme weather events through improvements in weather forecast capacity.
The visit included a roundtable discussion with representatives of the private sector, including the Russia Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, Association of Small Businesses, US Chamber of Commerce, Association of European Businesses, and foreign and Russian companies. The meeting focused on challenges of private sector growth and what the Bank can do to accelerate the growth.
The core meeting of the World Bank leader's visit to Russia was with President Vladimir Putin. The two Presidents discussed in detail the pressing need for sustaining the focus on global development agenda during Russia's preparation for G8 leadership, as social and economic development is essential for global stability.
"Last, but definitely not least, I very much look forward to next year's G8 summit here in Russia. And in this visit I talked to Russian officials about plans for that summit meeting, and how we can work together to make it a successful summit,” said Wolfowitz.“This year's summit in the United Kingdom made some major advances in the world development agenda and contributed to, I think, some important successes this year for development for the poorest people of the world.”
The Bank Group President also discussed fiscal discipline and reforms with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. The World Bank Group has aligned its program with Russia's changing needs. This is taking the form of greater co-financing in Bank-support projects, expanded support from the International Finance Corporation, and growing Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) programs in the country.
"We look forward to preparing, jointly with the Government, a new Partnership Agreement for Russia for 2006-2008. It will mark a new stage in Russia's relations with the World Bank Group as its shareholder,” commented Wolfowitz.