Created in 1974 by the IV Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the La Plata Basin, FONPLATA started its activities in 1977 in the city of Sucre, Bolivia. Later, in 2002, the headquarters of the organization was transferred to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, still in Bolivia. Its goal is to provide the integration of member countries by financing projects, whether large, medium, or small.
In Brazil, for example, FONPLATA participated in a project in the municipality of Cascavel, Paraná, where it contributed to the construction of works that improved conditions of urban mobility and basic sanitation. It also provided assistance in the construction of green areas and social assistance. The investment bank contributed a total of $32 million of the $40 million included in the project. Besides its mission to integrate member countries through collective projects and actions, the organization also seeks to highlight the value of each participating nation, respecting and giving voice to the cultural and historical aspects of its members. An example of this is its contribution of 5 million dollars to the “Project for the Valorization and Regional Consolidation of the Bicentennial Houses of History and Culture” in Argentina.
FONPLATA is also concerned with firming up its commitment to sustainable development. Following the UN’s 17 Sustainability and Development Goals, the bank has published its Sustainable Debt Framework, which is being used to issue the organization’s green debt. The Framework was developed in cooperation with Sustainalytics, an international Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) rating agency. This is one of the measures to align with the UN’s goals for the year 2030. Aware that carbon emissions in 2021 were twice as high as in 2020, FONPLATA started to take a closer look at green projects in member countries.
Juan E. Notaro, executive director of FONPLATA, spoke with ATLANTICO about the organization and its projects and objectives.
ATLANTICO- Can you cite FONPLATA projects that have been a success in each member country?
Juan Notaro- In Argentina, we can mention the Water and Sanitation Plus Work Program, which aims to fill the gap in drinking water and sanitation services for vulnerable populations and generate jobs in the construction of this infrastructure. The program benefits 24 municipalities, more than 380,000 inhabitants, and generates more than 1,800 direct jobs. In total we have more than 32 operations in the country with presence in all provinces with a focus on the most disadvantaged communities, particularly in the Norte Grande. In Bolivia, we can cite the Employment Generation and Urban Infrastructure Programs, which have generated more than 150,000 direct and indirect jobs and enabled the implementation of infrastructure in 33 cities in 9 states. With the success of the first two programs, we are starting a third operation to expand the number of jobs and infrastructure. We have also carried out several infrastructure and sustainable infrastructure projects throughout the country.
In Brazil, we highlight the various programs in intermediate municipalities that, without FONPLATA, would not have access to credit lines to carry out infrastructure works for urban development. Today FONPLATA operates in all regions of the country, with more than 20 cities from north to south. It is also worth mentioning that the first credit operation without sovereign guarantee took place in Brazil for the Development Bank of Minas Gerais – BDMG, benefiting small municipalities of the state of Minas Gerais. In Paraguay we can highlight an ongoing project that has great implications for the population, such as the construction works of the transformation plant and power transmission lines in the city of Valenzuela, which is helping to improve the electricity supply in Paraguay’s national interconnected system. We also have many road infrastructure programs with which we reach 15 of the country’s 17 municipalities. Finally, in Uruguay, we have a project to build the boulevard of the port of Montevideo, which will improve the country’s competitiveness and international integration. Also, we have carried out financial assistance projects for small and medium-sized enterprises to alleviate the impacts of COVID. All this without prejudice to the fact that 82% of the country’s historic portfolio has contributed to actions to improve transportation and logistics.
“Currently, FONPLATA is active in all regions of the country, operating in more than 20 cities from north to south of the country. It should also be noted that the first non-sovereign guaranteed credit operation took place in Brazil for Banco de Desenvolvimento de Minas Gerais – BDMG…”
ATLANTICO- What are the bank’s most important areas of activity? And which of these areas are most present in Brazil?
Juan Notaro- Our main areas of activity are support for infrastructure projects, economic and productive development, and socio-environmental development. We try to ensure that investments favor the integration of our countries, both in internal and external regions, with a special focus on border areas in order to benefit more than one member country. In Brazil we work particularly on investment for the development of municipalities in the intermediate cities. Currently, FONPLATA’s main contribution sectors are infrastructure and socio-environmental development. Especially with integral housing and urban development projects and programs; water and sanitation; recovery of green areas, especially parks and riverbanks; all based on a sustainability approach to improve the quality of life of the population of these cities. We have activities in more than 20 cities, representing all regions of the country. Today, the focus is on cities in Santa Catarina and Mato Grosso do Sul. We have a growing portfolio in São Paulo, Espírito Santo and in the Northern regions, such as Acre and Belém, and in the Northeast.
ATLANTICO- How did FONPLATA act in the face of the economic and social impact of COVID-19?
Juan Notaro- We have acted quickly and decisively in providing a flexible response to the Bank’s member countries through a series of instruments to support economic reactivation and mitigation of the effects of the pandemic: we have made available a special non-reimbursable cooperation fund, created special lines of financing with rapid approval and disbursements, granted the possibility to restructure some existing credits, incorporated an economic reactivation line with reduced rates, and provided the possibility to activate an emergency clause in projects under execution. In terms of concrete actions and figures, between technical cooperation, the special COVID line, loans and restructuring, we have made available almost USD 55 million for Argentina, USD 320,000 for Bolivia, USD 5.2 million for Brazil, USD 200,000 for Paraguay and more than USD 60 million for Uruguay, according to the demand of the countries. In turn, this funding involved line item funding for MSMEs (39.1%); food services and distribution systems (25.1%); hospital infrastructure (19.1%); medical supplies and equipment (10.3%); health and support personnel (4.5%); and local transmission prevention in border areas (1.1%).
“Loans and restructuring we made available, according to country demand, almost 55 million USD for Argentina; 320,000 USD for Bolivia; 5.2 million USD for Brazil; 200,000 USD for Paraguay and over 60 million USD for Uruguay.”
ATLANTICO- FONPLATA has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation ( JBIC). What other partnerships could you highlight and what are the results of these partnerships?
Juan Notaro- This point is very important for FONPLATA and we have been very active in this regard during the last years with more than favorable results. As an example, we have established strategic relationships with peer development institutions of relevant participation in Latin America and the world, such as: in addition to those mentioned above with JBIC, the French Development Agency (AFD); the European Investment Bank (EIB); the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); CAF – Development Bank of Latin America; the China-Latin America Fund (China LAC-Fundo); the Official Credit Institute of Spain (ICO); the German Development Bank (KFW); the European Union Latin America Investment Fund (LAIF); the New Development Bank (NDB), among others. These strategic alliances provide FONPLATA cooperation and expertise on several key issues, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, green energy, gender and youth, sustainable development, among others.
FONPLATA has actively participated in international alliances of sister institutions, such as ALIDE, Alliance for Finance in Commons, where we participate in several working groups to share best practices on sustainable development, social, gender, youth, disadvantaged and diverse populations. Specifically on environmental issues, we are part of the Climate Action for Financial Institutions Alliance.
ATLANTICO- The fight for gender equality continues to be an important agenda. What has FONPLATA done for the integration of women in different sectors?
Juan Notaro- In our commitment to the United Nations 2030 Agenda, SDG-5 “Gender Equality” is something that we have been working on and have set as a priority in the Bank’s Institutional Strategic Plan 2022-2026. In fact, the Gender and Youth Division was specially created in 2022 within Country Operations and Management to strengthen our gender policies in addition to our commitment to SDG-5. The commitment of multilateral development institutions should be to support women for a more equal and equitable world. Their role in our region was the foundation for overcoming the most difficult phases of the AIDS-19 pandemic; and at the same time, they were globally the ones who were most harmed and whose rights were most violated in that situation. We believe that the role of women is crucial to post-pandemic economic recovery, so we must support investment projects that provide them with tools for inclusion, especially in the labor market.
“Our commitment to the United Nations 2030 Agenda, SDG-5 “Gender Equality” is something we have been working on and have set as a priority in the Bank’s Institutional Strategic Plan 2022-2026. “
ATLANTICO- What measures and projects has FONPLATA thought of or put into action in order to bring education and basic sanitation to the communities in the member countries?
Juan Notaro- In recent years, the number and percentage of such operations in the total portfolio has increased. This has been strongly leveraged by new operations in Argentina. These include two operations to strengthen the fight against Chagas disease throughout the country; projects to improve public health infrastructure in Chaco province; the renovation and expansion program of the San Bernardo Hospital in Salta; the emergency program to respond to the effects of “El Niño”; and the improvement of hospitals in La Rioja province under the Federal Trust Fund for Regional Infrastructure. In education, a very interesting project underway is the School Investment in Public Education, Science and Technology in Chaco Province, where 20 schools will be improved and equipped, 25,000 teachers will be trained in the use of the Provincial Virtual Learning Environment (ELE), and 650 schools will have access to virtual classrooms.
ATLANTICO- What did FONPLATA achieve in 2021 and what goals does the organization intend to achieve in 2022?
Juan Notaro- I would like to start this answer by anchoring myself in the present. We started 2022 with excellent news: being one of the pioneering multilateral banks in Latin America with a Sustainable Debt Framework aligned with the International Capital Markets Association. With the update of our Institutional Strategic Plan 2022, we expressed our firm commitment to environmental issues, in line with the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement. Looking ahead to 2021, one of the most important achievements is that we have completed two new bond issues on the Swiss capital markets. In fact, FONPLATA’s risk rating is better than that of its five members, which makes the institution a reliable partner for development projects and has opened the door to the capital markets to obtain resources at very advantageous rates. During 2021, operations for an overall amount of USD 353.4 million were approved and the total financing portfolio at the end of 2021 consists of 96 operations for an overall amount of USD 2,833 million. In 2022 we continue on our path of bringing development closer to our people and we believe that FONPLATA – Development Bank has already earned a place among the international organizations in the region and will continue to contribute to the creation of a better future for Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and the rest of Latin America.
Images: Town Hall of Cascavel and Town Hall of Criciúma
ATLANTICO- How can FONPLATA’s successful ideas be incorporated in the African continent?
Juan Notaro- In some issues, FONPLATA member countries face development problems similar to those of certain regions and sub-regions in the African continent. In this regard, we have several projects in Brazil and other countries that could serve as examples for African countries, such as Employment Generation or Water Harvesting in households in Bolivia; Urban Reclassification in Municipalities in Brazil; Irrigation and Family Agriculture in Argentina; the Regional Integration Road projects implemented in Paraguay, and the projects for the Promotion of Micro and Small Enterprises implemented in Uruguay.
The transfer of knowledge and best practices, always respecting local peculiarities and fostering the cultures and wisdom of the beneficiary populations, is crucial for a harmonious and inclusive development. Development by listening to the needs of the population brings better results, with the awareness and empowerment of local actors, making everyone feel like actors and responsible for changing and improving their lives, with positive long-term impacts.
The alliance with actors who know Africa’s reality is crucial for dialogue and bridge building, being able to apply best practices from both sides of the Atlantic, and feed successful experiences from Africa to our region, which have more similarities than differences.
“The alliance with actors who know the reality of Africa is crucial for dialogue and bridge building, being able to apply best practices from both sides of the Atlantic”
ATLANTICO- What is the balance of your management so far and what are your expectations for the future of FONPLATA?
Juan Notaro- The ability to respond in an agile, efficient and effective manner with instruments adapted to the reality and conditions of its members, with sufficient resources and competitive conditions and costs to support the process of recovery and reduction of gaps that affect harmonious and comprehensive development. Moreover, the commitment and ongoing support of the member countries for a regional institution that is its own and increasingly relevant as a partner in development and the ability to adapt its organizational structure, technological platforms, working methods, and processes and procedures to ensure agile, quality responses in a timely manner and with the lowest possible transaction costs have been the fundamental pillars for achieving our objectives. The Bank’s greatest challenge lies in its ability to respond to the new and growing demands for more sustainable financing in our countries. To this end, a central issue is to ensure the continued growth of capital and, through it, of lending and equity capacity, as well as its ability to raise funds on the best possible terms. The ability to successfully respond to these challenges will determine the institution’s future as a multilateral development bank and its ability to attract new nonfounding members that enrich and expand the opportunities for integration and improvement of the quality of life of the people within and among member countries.
Considering the imminent entry of Bolivia as a full member of MERCOSUR, this indeed strategically positions FONPLATA as the development bank of this regional bloc. Looking ahead, in a global context of uncertainties, we can have some expectation of the need to strengthen and revitalize MERCOSUR, for which the availability of a solid and reliable financial institution of its own, such as FONPLATA, may become a critical and strategic tool for the promotion of regional integration and development policies.
” The Bank’s greatest challenge lies in its ability to respond to new and increasing demands for more sustainable financing in our countries, and a central issue is to ensure continued capital growth”
Text: César Rodrigues