ASI and the World Bank to expand cooperation in 2020
The list of priorities in the joint work of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) and the World Bank will include: international practices in the spheres of social protection, creating comfortable conditions for living, forming a favorable urban environment, and human capital development, as well as digital solutions for the regions and measures to promote competition and support small businesses. At the bilateral meeting held in Moscow on December 18, Renaud Seligmann, World Bank’s Country Director for Russia, and Svetlana Chupsheva, the head of the ASI, agreed to relaunch the investment climate agenda and expand the areas of cooperation in 2020.
Action plans for the selected areas are to be approved by the sides by late January.
Svetlana Chupsheva proposed the World Bank to become an international partner in the implementation of the Smarteka initiative. General Director of the ASI reported that the platform for sharing effective practices (smarteka.com), including around 50 regional solutions, was being piloted.
"We have already started to discuss interaction in regard to the Smarteka platform. We expect that it will be workable not only for the regions, but also for companies, funds, non-commercial organizations, for business persons and ordinary people. We are eager for it to be absolutely open for interaction with other countries so that it is not merely an archive but rather a tool for exchange, assessment, ranking, and search for mentors, which makes it possible to form a pool of international experts. Here, we would like to see the World Bank in the ranks of our global partners. You have the largest knowledge base and definitely something to share, I believe. Lastly, it is certainly interesting that you see potential from the perspective of updating your international base," Svetlana Chupsheva said.
The head of the ASI specified the priority areas of cooperation: technological development, entrepreneurship support, urban development, social sphere, personnel training, and expertise development in regional teams. She pointed out four criteria used by the ASI to assess its initiatives and leaders projects.
"First, any project being implemented at the Agency must comply with the best practice. Everything we support and implement must have upscale potential. Second is digitalization. This means the ability to be structured from the perspective of analyzing the use of big data, digital solutions, and technologies. Third is globality. We consider projects from the perspective of competition in the global market, from the perspective of updating the international knowledge base and our possibility to become a leader. Fourth is the aspect of forming and expanding the network. It is very important for us to build up network interaction with a partner network and involve our target communities in projects," Svetlana Chupsheva noted.
"These criteria and our priorities fit together very well. We have accumulated a database of similar solutions and practices," World Bank’s Country Director stated.
Renaud Seligmann proposed to update Smarteka with the solutions related to social protection issues as the first step, as well as create an international profile and ensure the correct positioning of the platform for other countries as the second step.
The World Bank is to organize systemic work with Russian regions. Previously, it used to be piecemeal (the World Bank addressed social protection issues in Tatarstan and energy efficiency issues in Yugra).
"We would like to draw up a comprehensive menu for the regions that would reflect the World Bank's main competencies grouped into specific units. The first unit is human capital (services for education, social protection, healthcare). The second unit is growth and economic development, including the issues of combating disparity. The third unit is the living standard, as well as urban and rural development. The fourth unit includes cross-cutting issues — everything related to digital economy and state institutions," Renaud Seligmann explained.
Demography and poverty reduction
Apurva Sanghi, World Bank's Lead Economist, emphasized that the poverty reduction issue had become of utmost relevance. He proposed the ASI to include it in the joint agenda.
"We participated in preparing the State Council decisions on demographic issues. One of the units was related to improving the people's living standard. We performed substantive work with experts and have a proposal for the government on what we think to be an efficient tool for improving the living standard of low-income people and what may contribute to our citizens' desire to have a family and children. We are ready to share our proposals and obtain your expertise," Svetlana Chupsheva reacted to the proposal.
Data-based digital solutions may be used for assessing the efficiency of social support measures.
"It is important to form a base of this data so that all measures are received by those very segments where people need them," Renaud Seligmann noted.
Investment climate relaunch
The ASI and the World Bank agreed to "renew" the agenda they had actively engaged in since 2011.
"We would also like to relaunch the next year's agenda of entrepreneurship support and a comfortable investment climate in our country, as well as propose landmark reforms that would enable the growth of small businesses and the increase of budget revenues," Svetlana Chupsheva said.
One of priority issues is reforming the taxation system.
"Despite serious financial supportive measures, tax preferences, subsidies for small businesses, and special treatments, we still cannot boast of any growth to say nothing of a boost in small businesses in our country's economy – they remain within 20%, and we now see a kind of plateauing. We got absorbed in playing with special treatments. We have self-employed persons, individual entrepreneurs, and a simplified taxation scheme for small businesses. We arrive at a consensus that we additionally need a certain tax reform, the streamlining of the taxation scheme, if not a progressive scale. Today, the rich and the poor pay according to the same scale in our country," Svetlana Chupsheva informed.
Equally important areas are competition promotion and access to financial resources.
"Today, small businesses need not so much money as access to markets, to market bank financing. You have articulated the competition issue, so let us see what other new solutions and areas we might include in this agenda," the head of the ASI proposed.