Exclusive Interview with IFC’s Regional Manager

Georgia Today met with Jan van Bilsen, Regional Manager of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for the South Caucasus, to discuss the past, present and future of the organisation’s work in Georgia and his involvement in that work.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries, offering investment, advisory, and asset management services to encourage private sector growth.

Mr van Bilsen took up his post in May 2015, coming from a background working in the Eastern Europe, former Soviet countries and Turkey. He had visited Georgia prior to his arrival on a number of business trips.

“The people here are extremely friendly and welcoming and the country as a whole has a lot to offer both visitors and business-wise.”

When asked how Georgia has changed since he first visited 7 years ago, he said: “Improvements have been made and there is clearly a positive momentum.”

IFC had another strong fiscal year in Georgia (fiscal year 2015 ended on June 30), investing nearly $180 million in long term finance. In the past year, IFC has continued to focus on supporting the Georgian financial sector- encouraging stability and using the financial sector to reach Small and Medium Business (SMEs).

IFC has supported projects across a range of other sectors, including manufacturing, agribusiness, helped boost sustainable energy, and supported companies to expand production, create jobs and boost economic growth. In addition, IFC has supported trade through its trade finance program.

“IFC has stepped up activities in the hydropower sector as part of our strategy to support infrastructure within the country- part of the electricity output will be exported to Turkey in order to assist Georgia to generate additional income and drive economic development We’ve also been helping the real (non-financial) sector, agri business, manufacturing, and are looking at opportunities to support the tourism/hospitality sectors and transit infrastructure, as well as affordable housing.”

IFC has also continued, this past year, to provide advisory services, and improving the investment climate and tax transparency, as well as food safety standards, enabling Georgia to bring its export potential up to international levels. “It is the mandate of IFC to work exclusively with the private sector to achieve our ultimate goals by means of creating jobs, and setting up and expanding businesses,” said Mr van Bilsen.
We asked him where he sees Georgia in five years’ time.

“The impact of external factors can’t be predicted but I believe the trend of past seven years will continue, more specifically, the way the business environment has been improving will continue.”

Mr van Bilsen recently met with working groups of the Ministry of Economy during which the task forces presented what they do and their planned future steps, which included working with experts from international institutions and dealing with donors. “I was extremely impressed by their clear vision, practical business-like approach and willingness to listen to advice regarding what is needed.”

Mr van Bilsen will be staying in Georgia for an additional four years. “I look forward to being a part of the process of development,” he said. “The government is willing to improve,” he praised.

Mr van Bilsen brings a vast and relevant background to IFC Georgia office. 14 years ago he joined IFC after a career in a large Dutch bank and he has lived in eight different countries in positions within the financial sector, infrastructure, the real sector, and best practice implementation.

Katie Ruth Davies

24 September 2015 21:18