International Webinar ‘Sustainable Infrastructure: Price-Quality Balance’ Held by VEB.RF
On 8 September 2021, VEB.RF held the international webinar “Sustainable Infrastructure: Looking for the Balance between Quality and Costs”. The event is in continuation of VEB.RF’s leading the Working group on Sustainable and Quality Infrastructure of the D20 Long-Term Investors Club (D20-LTIC).
The webinar started with the opening remarks by VEB.RF Deputy Chairperson Svetlana Yachevskaya, who stressed the importance of quality infrastructure investment and development institutions’ potential contribution towards this goal. She said: “Identifying and structuring infrastructure projects that are attractive to development banks seem to be the most important precondition for increasing infrastructure investment in developing and developed countries. This is where development institutions can make a difference by helping to prepare high-quality projects, reducing risks, creating the favourable conditions for investment, promoting co-investment mechanisms or providing guarantees.” In response to global challenges of sustainable development, the webinar focused on the following topics: the role of financial development institutions in promoting quality infrastructure investment, and sustainable and quality infrastructure in emerging markets and developing economies.
The first session brought together the European Investment Bank (EIB), the New Development Bank (NDB), Spanish Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO), the B20 Finance and Infrastructure Task Force, HSBC Asset Management, and Global Infrastructure Basel (GIB) Foundation. The session was moderated by Christophe Dossarps, CEO, Sustainable Infrastructure Foundation (SIF).
The primary focus of the session was on how to involve development institutions in quality infrastructure investment, modernise existing infrastructure facilities, combat greenwashing and harmonise existing methodologies. In addition, the participants noted the importance of co-financing mechanisms and the development of new financial instruments for quality infrastructure investment and national development programmes.
The second session featured speakers from PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (PT SMI), the Long-Term Infrastructure Investors Association (LTIIA), AECOM Europe, and the Global Infrastructure Hub (GI Hub). The session was moderated by Maksim Merkulov, Head of PPP International Practices and Mechanisms, VEB.RF.
The session discussed a wide range of issues related to the particularities and implementation of infrastructural projects in developing countries. Specifically, the speakers noted that project preparation, promotion costs and risks in those countries are higher than in developed economies. However, it would be wrong to differentiate between practices of implementing infrastructural projects on the basis of a country’s level of economic development. As for measures to stimulate private investment, it is advisable to work on the standardisation of financial instruments and documents.
In his concluding remarks, VEB.RF Senior Banker Sergei Storchak emphasised the importance of discussions to find the best possible solutions. He noted that the issue of mobilising long-term investment had first been raised by Russia as early as its G20 presidency in 2013. This issue has since consistently evolved into promoting quality infrastructure investment and making infrastructure attractive to private investors. Efforts to find the best possible solutions are additionally supported by discussions, including the D20-LTIC agenda. According to Sergei Storchak, proposals discussed during the webinar are closely connected with the policy recommendations on infrastructure investment that will be presented by the D20 members to the G20 governments.
The Long-Term Investors Club (LTIC) was created by European major institutional investors in April 2009 to cope with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. VEB.RF joined the Club at its first conference in 2009.
The D20 (Development 20) was initiated by VEB.RF in 2013 under the Russian presidency in the G20 Group with the aim of bringing together the G20 development banks. The D20 is an informal group with a development, promotional or public mandate.
The D20 and the Long-Term Investors Club merged in 2019.
The D20-LTIC comprises 20 members, including major development institutions and banks. In line with the Italian G20 presidency in 2021, D20-LTIC events are hosted by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP).
VEB.RF Calls on BRICS Banks to Follow ESG Agenda to Recover Economies
During the annual meeting of member banks of the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism (ICM), VEB.RF Deputy Chairman and Member of the Management Board Daniil Algulian said that VEB.RF was adjusting business conduct approaches and launching the ESG transformation in partnership with commercial banks. “The Federal Law on VEB.RF and our Memorandum on Financial Policies have been amended to reflect our new mission: integrating social entrepreneurship principles focused primarily on improving quality of life and well-being into business processes.” Daniil Algulian said.
He proposed to the BRICS partners to mutually recognise national green taxonomies, including the Russian Taxonomy issued by VEB.RF and the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, and to use them to lay down uniform principles for financing sustainable development projects.
According to Daniil Algulian, environmental issues have been used lately to pursue protectionist goals. “Together, we can confront the prospects of imposing some universal approaches to expedite the transformation to the low carbon economy,” Daniil Algulian added. He mentioned the agreement reached by Ministers of Finance of the BRICS countries in August to promote the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities that provides for that climate action plans should be devised with due consideration for national opportunities.
Daniil Algulian highlighted VEB.RF’s efforts in supporting the Russian economy during the pandemics and the post-pandemic recovery, VEB.RF’s transformation based on sustainability principles, and VEB.RF’s short-term strategy. As compared to financing provided in 2017-2020, VEB.RF aims to increase its support for projects 1.7 times to reach 17 trillion roubles (232 billion US dollars) in 2021-2024 together with all VEB.RF Group entities and partners. VEB.RF itself will invest directly 2.9 trillion roubles (39 billion US dollars).
Sustainability issues were also raised by VEB.RF Deputy Chairperson and Member of the Management Board Natalya Timakova at the meeting of the BRICS Financial Forum. She highlighted the role of the BRICS development banks in relaunching the investment cycle and restoring economic activity in the post-pandemic period. Specifically, she told the audience about Russian government programmes in areas such as supporting small- and medium businesses, developing the education and healthcare systems, and financing industrial, infrastructure and digitalisation projects.
Natalya Timakova noted that the recovery should be long-term and sustainable and suggested to focus on the ESG transformation agenda and to consider improving urban quality of life.
According to Natalya Timakova, the BRICS ICM could become a workshop for assembling new financial ideas and projects in areas that both encourage economic growth and help to achieve comprehensive social, environmental and governance outcomes.
VEB.RF representatives also called upon their ICM partners to continue joint work on formulating recommendations to implement the principles of responsible financing based on OECD’s experience and best practices and developing the BRICS infrastructural digital platform. (The Memorandum on the Principles of Responsible Financing was signed in November 2020).
Investment in University Campuses Construction Estimated at RUB500bn
- Regional teams have started developing campus models and architectural solutions;
- VEB.RF is the project operator;
- EEF-2021 witnessed the first public discussion of the project.
The Eastern Economic Forum included a panel session entitled University Campuses Network is Russia’s Intellectual Belt and focused on a project for creating a network of modern university campuses based on the mechanisms of public-private partnership and concessions. The event was the first public discussion of project specifics and effects after an ordinance governing its terms had been issued by the Government of the Russian Federation.
Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov emphasised the utmost importance of the project for Russian regions and strategic development of universities, including in the context of 2030 Priority project, and specified the key particularities of the project: “Firstly, we work in close cooperation with regions. Campus projects are ambitious and should be treated by governors as intellectual and organisational challenges. Secondly, new infrastructure policies provide for multichannel financing and attracting private investment. Thirdly, we try to design campuses so that their maintenance and operation were both economically viable and feasible for universities. And, finally, campuses are dominant urban centres helping to breathe new life into our cities.”
The project provides for constructing interuniversity campuses providing for that campus infrastructure could be used by all regional universities and research centres. Establishing shared competency centres on campus sites will foster the exchange of new ideas and will give an added impetus to organising interdisciplinary teams and creating innovative products.
Creating an innovative educational environment (campuses) is a pioneering experiment in attracting private investment to develop and modernise the Russian higher education infrastructure. This requires that we should drastically change the organisational scheme of managing the university infrastructure. The PPP mechanism stipulates involving private business in campus facility management. This is a distinctly new approach not applied before in the Russian higher education system.
The key element of such approach is developing an efficient business model whose quality can be proved by successful project implementation. Developing a commercially successful business model is contingent on active communication among regional authorities, investors, universities, student and urban communities, and taking care of their interests and needs. Additionally, this imposes additional requirements for universities obliged to predict the demand for educational, scientific and housing infrastructure for the next 15-20 years, which is not a trivial task.
The regional teams have already started developing financial and economic models and architectural solutions for university campuses. Investors and banks are emphasising the particular importance of trust-based relationships between universities, investors and public authorities critical for the project implementation. In their turn, they are ready to take on investment risks inherent in campus projects.
Managing Director of VEB.RF’s Russian Government Agent Office Mikhail Alashkevich emphasised the campus role in preserving and augmenting the human capital: “To make the project viable, campuses should attract both foreign and non-resident students and a national talent pool. That is why we should focus not only on preserving the human capital, but also on attracting the best students, researchers and young scientists to the region. This will help to increase the region’s competitiveness, including through synergy generated from the cooperation of universities, research institutes, federal and regional authorities, and private business. VEB.RF is the project operator in its capacity as agent for the Government of the Russian Federation. It will help to structure campus projects based on the PPP and concession models. It is a large-scale project with a total value of 500 billion roubles earmarked for campus infrastructure.”
VEB.RF, VTB, ESN, Ministry for Development of Russian Far East, Marubeni Corporation and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines to Launch Methanol-Fuelled Vessel Project
VEB.RF, VTB, ESN, Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East, Marubeni Corporation and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines are developing a project for the construction of methanol-fuelled vessels by Russian shipbuilders. The use of methanol as marine fuel is a new global trend, with the potential volume of the new market estimated at tens of billions of US dollars. Russia has full potential to enter the new market and offer its advanced solutions.
The parties signed a memorandum of understanding during the Eastern Economic Forum. The ceremony was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The agreement was signed by Minister for Development of the Far East and Arctic Region Alexei Chekunkov, VEB.RF Chairman Igor Shuvalov, VTB Bank Deputy President and Chairman of the Management Board Anatoly Pechatnikov, CEO of ESN Group Grigory Berezkin, Executive Vice President and Member of the Board of Marubeni Corporation Akira Terakawa, and Chief Managing Executive Director and Director General of Energy and Offshore Business Unit of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Kenta Matsuzaka.
An international consortium comprising Russian banks, a methanol manufacturer (ESN Group) and major Japanese companies is analysing the proposed technological solutions, evaluating the financing needs and developing a road map to prepare the project launch under a tight deadline.
Among the next-generation environmentally friendly types of marine fuel (such as hydrogen, LNG or ammonia), methanol provides for much lower expenditures to create the bunkering infrastructure.
Russia is actively involved in developing the Northern Sea Route. The ESN Group’s terminal in Skovorodino that is geographically close to the Northern Sea Route could potentially become the principal provider of methanol for vessels sailing from Asia to Europe through the Arctic Ocean.
VEB.RF’s Chairman Igor Shuvalov:
“Russia is the leading producer of natural gas. VEB.RF as a development institution provides comprehensive support for domestic high value-added gas-to-chemicals production. Gas processing projects financed by VEB.RF will help to achieve a more than 1.5-fold increase in the methanol output by 2030. Russia has full potential to enter the new niche and become a leader in the global marine fuel market.
VTB Bank's Deputy President and Chairman of the Management Board Anatoly Pechatnikov:
“VTB is actively pursuing the ESG agenda. We are involved in various projects, from green mortgages to financing high-technology industries. Russian business is ready to participate in unique projects aimed to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Far East is rich in natural resources and has facilities for high value-added processing of gas, with a number of gas processing projects under consideration. This affords huge investment potential to introduce breakthrough technology. Creation of methanol fleet will help to attract highly skilled workers, create new jobs in the region and increase Russia’s export potential.”
CEO of ESN Group Grigory Berezkin:
“Environmental agenda has penetrated deep in our life, and it definitely affects major industrial projects. The major global vessel operators are planning to reject unsustainable oil fuel and use environmentally friendlier gas fuel. This provides us with new opportunities, and we are pleased that our long-term partnership with Marubeni Corporation in implementing a gas-to-chemicals project in the Amur Region will be further strengthened by joint elaboration of large-scale environmentally friendly business. Our consortium comprising the leading Russian banks, the Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East and our Japanese partners Marubeni Corporation and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is a unique team in terms of its competencies that undoubtedly could offer the most advanced solutions.”
VEB.RF to Finance Construction of Cross-Border Passenger Cableway between Russia and China
During the 2021 Eastern Economic Forum, VEB.RF (VEB.RF Group) and ZED Development (part of the Region Group of Companies) signed a cooperation agreement to implement a project for the construction of a cableway across the Amur River at the section of the Russian-Chinese border between Blagoveschensk (Russia) and Heihe (China).
The project involves constructing a cross-border passenger cableway with a passenger terminal and retail space. VEB.RF’s investments will total 2 billion roubles.
The agreement was signed by VEB.RF’s Deputy Chairman and Member of the Management Board Artem Dovlatov and Region Group’s Vice-President Valeria Repkova.
VEB.RF’s Deputy Chairman and Member of the Management Board Artem Dovlatov:
“VEB.RF is the first to include such an unusual transport infrastructure project on construction of a cableway in its portfolio. It will take only three minutes to get from Russia to China! The cableway is scheduled to begin operation in the first quarter of 2023. The total passenger traffic is projected to reach 1.1 million in the first year of operation. The project has received a positive opinion from the Russian Main Department of State Expertise, construction works are under way, and the relevant land lease contracts, general contractor contracts and equipment supply contracts have been concluded.”
“A high-technology international project implemented by our group of companies is the first of a kind, and it will definitely become a landmark of the Far East region. For the first time, the cableway will connect the two states and ensure more comfortable transportation between the two border towns. The project will encourage tourism and help to create new economic and social ties in the border region,” Project Supervisor and Region Group’s Vice-President Valeria Repkova said.
The Russian developer is ZED Development (part of the Region Group of Companies), the Chinese developer - Jinlungang Company (CRCC).
The project is being implemented on a parity basis under an intergovernmental agreement between Russia and China signed in September 2015.