Hannes Richter

Austria’s Cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

Hannes Richter

Another important Washington-based development bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), pursues a similar goal, focusing only  on Latin America and the Caribbean. Established in 1959, the IDB is the largest source of multilateral financing in this region and has country offices in all of its 26 borrowing member countries. Its outstanding loan portfolio of 46 billion is three times as large as that of the World Bank for this region.

Austria joined the IDB in 1977, and currently there are six Austrians working at this regional bank. Representing Austria on the Executive Board, made up of fourteen directors and responsible for the Bank's general management, is the Spaniard, Luis Maria Linde, who also represents France, Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Austria's representative to the IDB is Natalia Corrales-Díez who was appointed in 2006.

In contrast to the World Bank, the 26 borrowing countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have a majority vote of 50.02%. This arrangement is unique as  the borrowing  countries, as a group, are the majority shareholders. Austria's share of voting rights amounts to 0.16%.

The main instruments to finance development projects and support strategies to reduce poverty are in the form of loans and guarantees. Additionally the IDB has a soft loan window, the “Fund for Special Operations,” similar to the IDA at the World Bank. Although government loans make up the bulk of the Bank's operations, the IDB's operations in the private sector have expanded aggressively and are predicted to triple by the year 2010. The IDB Group consists of two other institutions that promote the development of the private sector: the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC), which provides support for small and medium-sized businesses and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), which promotes private sector growth through grants and investments and is the market leader in the area of remittances worldwide

As Natalia Corrales-Díez explains, there are a number of interesting opportunities for Austrian firms, and the Austrian Trade Commission in Washington can provide advice and assistance to Austrian companies that want to participate in IDB projects. In 2007 the IDB established new strategic focal areas , including the Water and Sanitation Initiative and the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative. These areas should prove to be of interest to Austrian companies planning to invest in this region, given the huge amounts programed for these areas within the next years. 

Before joining the IDB in 2006, Natalia Corrales-Díez was working for UNIDO in Beijing, China. During her studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Bologna, Italy, she specialized in international development. Since 2004 she is also lecturing on “Economic Policy of International Financial Institutions” at the University of Economics in Vienna and has published several articles on related issues.