The World Bank has six regional vice presidents, each responsible for an area in which the institution operates. Shigeo Katsu has worked as Regional Vice President for Europe and Central Asia since 2003.
The work of the Europe and Central Asia Department at the World Bank focuses on promoting of sustainable growth and improving living standards. “Countries, notably those in Central Asia, risk wasting the talents of their people and leaving them on the fringes of prosperity unless they create incentives to stimulate innovation and reap the commercial rewards that should come with it”, Shigeo asserted. The region contains countries that range from middle to low-income and is formed of countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and the World Bank has worked with these countries since the earliest phase of their “transition”. The World Bank is supporting the economic adaptation, “While countries from Central Europe to Central Asia are striving to emulate western European approaches as they face the challenges of competing in an increasingly integrated world, they should not forget to take a look the other way to see what’s happening further east.”, he said.
The region has a solid skill base, with high levels of education and a strong history of research, but few have been able to convert these advantages into commercially viable innovations. “One problem is the low level of spending on R&D, which stands at less than one percent of GDP”, Shigeo said, “But it is not only a question of too little investment. Equally important is where the funding comes from: two-thirds of research spending in the once centrally-planned economies of Europe and Central Asia comes from well-meaning governments with little understanding of the market”.
Shigeo joined the World Bank in 1979 as part of the Young Professional program. He has worked in the Western Africa Projects Department, as Resident Representative in Benin, as Principal Operations Officer for the Industry and Energy Operations Division in the China Department, as Country Director of the Mission in Cote d’Ivoire. Shigeo has a BA in International Relations and Economics from the Tokyo University for International Studies and has a Diploma in International Economics and International Relations from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Austria. In addition to his native Japanese, Shigeo speaks English, French, and German and has some working knowledge of Chinese and Russian.
The World Bank aims to continue its efforts to create jobs in the region. Shigeo said, “The policy direction is clear. We need to focus on allowing enterprises to create jobs by acting decisively in four areas - business environment, labor taxation, skills and infrastructure - as well as by changing these incentives to encourage mobility. We need to encourage new firms and established firms to continue to adapt and compete in the new market. We need to support social inclusion by establishing a more flexible labor market backed up by a safety net for workers, not a safety net for old jobs”.