The First Eurasian Congress (December 4th, 2020) has started off with the panel of chief economists in the combined offline/online mode. The list of speakers included Erik Berglof, Chief Economist, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; Beata Javorcik, Chief Economist, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Rolf Strauch, Chief Economist, European Stability Mechanism; Andrei Klepach, Chief Economist, VEB.RF; Grigori Marchenko, Advisor to Chairman of the Board, Eurasian Development Bank; Natalia Orlova, Chief Economist, Alfa-Bank; and Petr Grishin, Chief Economist for Eastern Europe, VTB Capital. Evgeny Vinokurov, EDB and EFSD Chief Economist, moderated the discussion.
The speakers noted that, facing the unprecedented challenge in 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19, strengthening economic integration is a key step for jointly overcoming the consequences of the pandemic and finding optimal solutions for economic growth recovery in 2021. The participants pointed out that the Eurasian Economic Union had its successes including the regional customs union and the regional common labor market. However, it needs a new impetus. Main efforts should focus on liberalizing the movement of services and capital within the Union, as well as launching cross-border infrastructure projects and managing digital transition.
The speakers shared some remarks on necessary policies for the Eurasian economies. Governments should make sure they only support firms that will be able to function in post-COVID reality. Another point has to do with environment and climate change. Governments need to become climate-conscious and support climate change mitigation.
An important remark was made regarding very sparse international flight schedule in the EAEU. E.g., currently there are only two flights between Russia and Kazakhstan, compared with 84 flights before the pandemic. The flight schedule should gradually go back to normal in order to provide foundation for trade, investment, and the common labor market. It would also contribute towards bringing 160.000 foreign students from the EAEU countries back to Russian universities. In conclusion, the speakers emphasized the need of financing infrastructure in a broad sense. This means funding not only core infrastructure, but also providing support to social and digital infrastructure.
The videostream of the panel discussion is available here.