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NZer joins vital World Bank business network

New Zealander joins vital World Bank business network

12 March 2004 – Graham Smeaton, client manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), is the first New Zealander to be appointed a Private Sector Liaison Officer (PSLO) to the World Bank Group.

The appointment provides a valuable link from New Zealand’s commercial community to the World Bank and will open up more opportunities for New Zealand businesses to get involved in major international projects.

The World Bank currently procures about $40 million worth of consultancy services and goods from New Zealand companies and Mr Smeaton says his job will be to build on that.

He will remain client manager consultancy and services at NZTE and add the PSLO work to his portfolio of economic development.

Educated in Wellington Mr Smeaton has spent most of his career working for NZTE and its predecessors. He was the first New Zealand Trade Commissioner in Saudi Arabia and his offshore service has included Bahrain and Turkey - the latter also as the New Zealand Charge d’Affaires, Ankara. He has held international marketing manager positions for the Middle East and Asia, undertaken short term assignments in Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Korea and Washington DC and worked with many sectors in New Zealand.

Founded in 1944, the World Bank Group (WBG) aims to reduce poverty in developing countries through economic growth. The World Bank involves the private sector in its projects through its Enterprise Outreach Services (EOS) unit located within the World Bank’s Vice Presidency for Europe.

“The PSLO concept started six years ago (1999) when we saw there was a need for the World Bank Group to better engage the business community in its fight against poverty,” Gilles Garcia, manager Enterprise Outreach Services, World Bank-Vice Presidency for Europe, says. “A network was created of businesses working together with the World Bank. About 30 countries have joined the PSLO network and we should have 40 by June 2005.

“The bank has always had contacts with business organisations in New Zealand but with Graham Smeaton as the PSLO, we will be able to build a relationship with one person,” Mr Garcia, who is based in Paris, says.

“He will be in regular contact and therefore, communication with the World Bank will be much more efficient that in the past. The link with the other PSLOs could also provide opportunities for fruitful trade partnerships in developing countries.

“Graham will be a key link between the World Bank Group and the New Zealand private sector. He will able to disseminate World Bank information on policies, development issues, activities and opportunities to the private sector and act as a liaison focal point. By listening to the needs of private companies doing trade and investing in developing countries, he will also be able to tell us (the bank) how to better support these companies.”

Mr Garcia says Mr Smeaton will attend training sessions regionally and once a year all the PSLOs gather in Washington DC for a week of training. This year that is 9-13 May and it covers all the functions and services of the WBG.

Mr Smeaton says New Zealand’s acceptance into the PSLO network confirms our international credibility and reputation for focusing on quality and service. An example of an area New Zealand business excel in is earthquake management and a cluster he works with will be looking to help with the reconstruction work of Asian countries affected by the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami.

Having a New Zealand PSLO is significant to the consultancy sector, he says, because the Asia Development Bank and the World Bank Group are the largest single source of off shore business opportunities for them and his position will provide a direct line to WBG.

There are two aspects to his work – dealing directly with the WBG and dealing with the beneficiaries of World Bank loans in developing countries who then contract out work.

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