Caspian Policy Center Discusses the Blue Dot Network Initiative and Infrastructure Investments in the Caspian with Experts from Washington and the Greater Caspian Region.
Javier Piedra, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia and Dr. Kaush Arha, US G7 Sherpa for Blue Dot Network at USAID; Caleb McCarry, Counselor to the Chief Executive Officer at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation; J. Steven Dowd, U.S. Executive Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; and many other high-level speakers joined the live webinar to talk about the potential private sector financing for infrastructure projects in the Greater Caspian Region through the Blue Dot Network initiative.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – TODAY, the Caspian Policy Center (CPC) in collaboration with USAID, brought together top foreign policy experts from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and senior representatives from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan to discuss the current landscape of the Blue Dot Network initiative and its economic policy and infrastructure development implications for the Greater Caspian Region countries. The live webinar which was broadcasted in English with a synchronous translation into Russian was held in coordination with the embassies of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to the United States.
CPC’s Executive Director Efgan Nifti opened the event with welcome remarks that were followed by introductory comments from the webinar’s keynote speaker Javier Piedra, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia at USAID and moderator Dr. Kaush Arha, US G7 Sherpa for Blue Dot Network at USAID.
“The Blue Dot Network has the potential to help the Caspian region build a broad set of partners around the world. As the Network grows and becomes more defined, understanding it may be crucial to navigate infrastructure investment and international development,” said Mr. Nifti.
“The Blue Dot Network will bring together governments, the private sector, and civil society under shared standards of global infrastructure development. The Network will certify infrastructure projects that demonstrate and uphold global infrastructure principles,” followed Mr. Piedra.
“There are tremendous infrastructure needs that cannot be met without private sector investments. The Blue Dot Network is the initiative to get more private sector investments into the infrastructure sector, particularly in emerging economies,” added Dr. Arha.
Caleb McCarry, Counselor to the Chief Executive Officer at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation; Abdul Hadi Nejrabi, Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé D’affaires at the Embassy of Afghanistan to the United States; Emil Majidov, Adviser to the Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan; J. Steven Dowd, U.S. Executive Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Giorgi Tsikolia, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Georgia to the United States; Husniyya Mammadova, Head of Department of Economic Cooperation and Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan; Anar Omarova, Advisor to the Governor of Astana International Financial Center of Kazakhstan; Amina Turgulova, Advisor to the Governor of Astana International Financial Center of Kazakhstan; Ilhom Umrzakov, Head of Macroeconomic Policy, Analysis and Forecasting Department at the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction in Uzbekistan; Atilla Bastirmaci, Deputy Director-General for International Agreements and the EU at Turkey’s Ministry of Trade; and Ambassador (Ret.) Robert F. Cekuta, Advisory Board Member at the Caspian Policy Center participated at the virtual convening to discuss the benefits of the Blue Dot Network)—a multi-stakeholder initiative that provides assessment and certification of infrastructure development projects worldwide and brings together governments, the private sector, and civil society to encourage the adoption of trusted standards for quality, global infrastructure development in an open and inclusive framework.
“The Blue Dot is about being responsible and sustainable; it’s about making sure that the investments made produce results for people,” said Mr. McCarry.
“The model of free markets, free enterprise, which is the heart of the Blue Dot concept, has been implemented and adhered to by the EBRD since its founding and will continue to do so,” said Mr. Dowd.
“We’ve been heavily investing in [Azerbaijan’s] infrastructure during the last decade and a half. This comes from the obvious need for Azerbaijan, the country on the shore of the Caspian Sea but without a direct entry into the ocean, to improve our connectivity. We need to improve connectivity inside the country and to open up the transport routes that connect us to larger markets,” said Mr. Majidov.
“Uzbekistan is a double landlocked country and connectivity and infrastructure are important for us,” said Mr. Umrzakov.
When it comes to communication, trade, and transit routes, the Greater Caspian Region remains one of the least integrated hubs in the world and needs significant investments to promote regional connectivity and cooperation on infrastructure projects. The webinar’s moderator Dr. Kaush Arha, US G7 Sherpa for Blue Dot Network at USAID, especially focused on the connectivity and digital communication opportunities in the region and facilitated an insightful exchange amongst the webinar speakers on the Blue Dot Network capabilities for tapping into private investment reserves.
“The Blue Dot Network is an important step forward; it’s something that can help countries in the region find the revenues they need, compete better in the private capital market, and mobilize institutional financing,” said Ambassador (Ret.) Robert F. Cekuta.
“From a geopolitical perspective, new initiatives in the Caspian can provide an additional boost to the U.S. and Azerbaijani partnership and trans-regional cooperation,” said Ms. Mammadova.
Since its launch in 2019, the Blue Dot Network has provided a new angle to the current spree of global infrastructure projects and has the potential to help the Caspian region countries establish a broad set of partnerships around the world. The Caspian—an important and strategically located region with multiple regional and global actors—is of particular importance both for local and global investors. Countries in the Caspian region that agree to implement Blue Dot Network standards signify that their governments value high-quality infrastructure that benefits local communities.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caspian countries are moving ahead with regional integration and connectivity. Speakers agreed that continued U.S. support and engagement would be critical to safeguarding the sovereignty and prosperity of the Caspian region countries while undertaking massive infrastructure projects to improve trade and transit networks. They highlighted that the Black Sea and Caspian Sea ports are integral to maintaining reliable trade routes that connect the Caspian countries to global markets. By providing a higher degree of assurance to investors in a potentially uncertain environment, the panelists argued that the Blue Dot Network could play a meaningful role in connecting lenders with critical projects in need of capital.
The webinar also promoted notable exchanges amongst the panelists on increasing resilience within the Caspian region countries’ current infrastructure projects, lessons learned from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and actions taken to maintain diplomatic and economic cooperation, and strategies implemented by the United States to contribute to the regional security and cooperation.
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About Caspian Policy Center
The Caspian Policy Center (CPC) is an independent, nonprofit research think tank based in Washington D.C. Economic, political, energy, and security issues of the Caspian region constitute the central research focus of the Center. CPC aims at becoming a primary research and debate platform in the Caspian region with relevant publications, events, projects, and media productions to nurture a comprehensive understanding of the intertwined affairs of the Caspian region.
With an inclusive, scholarly, and innovative approach, the Caspian Policy Center presents a platform where diverse voices from academia, business, and policy world from both the region and the nation’s capital interact to produce distinct ideas and insights to the outstanding issues of the Caspian region. Learn more at caspianpolicy.org