PILLAR 1. MACROECONOMIC CHALLENGES IN TURBULENT TIMES

Panel 1. Fiscal Policies

The pandemic exposed major differences and inequalities between and within regions and countries. Governments provided massive fiscal support to economic recovery, limiting the scars of the pandemic, and, more recently, engaged actively in the markets to curb the energy crisis impact. How to mitigate the social consequences of higher food and energy inflation? Can fiscal interventions continue under elevated public debts? How to find the delicate balance between fiscal consolidation and further support for growth? Central banks are signaling interest rate rises are coming soon. What would be the implications from rising interest rates? Will inflation be brought under control? How could this be best achieved without compromising the recovery?

Panel 2. Monetary policies

Monetary policies were accommodative and broadly supportive to economic recovery. However, inflation has risen sharply in recent months, strongly driven by higher energy and food prices. Central banks are signaling interest rate rises are coming soon. Will inflation be brought under control? Could non-performing loans (NPLs) undermine financial stability? Are the capital buffers sufficient to ensure resilience of the banking systems?

PILLAR 2. RESILIENCE, COMPETITIVENESS, AND REGIONAL COOPERATION

Panel 3. Seizing Opportunities from Regional Cooperation and Euro-Atlantic Perspectives

Energy crisis, supply chain bottlenecks and disruptions, labor turnover and brain drain, wage and input prices’ pressures, regulatory requirements… Doing business in the region of South Eastern Europe is especially challenging in uncertain times. Economic diplomacy can significantly strengthen regional cooperation and Euro-Atlantic perspectives. What are the key obstacles for doing business in the region? How to strengthen regional cooperation? Do all businesses need government support? Over the long-term adoption of new technologies may account for a large portion of productivity growth. How to balance the short-term recovery with long-term objectives of adoption of new technologies? How to speed up digitalization? Should Special Economic Zones be central to promotion of technological development? How to build a competitive and resilient business sector? What is the potential of digitization in improving resilience and competitiveness?

PILLAR 3. ENERGY, GREEN TRANSITION, AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Panel 4. Energy and Green Transition

Reducing health and environmental impacts of pollution should factor into the design and conduct of policies and strategies. While the environmental legislation may be in place, its enforcement is still a significant challenge in the region. Whilst aiming reduction of environmental impacts, energy policies are also intertwined with geopolitical issues. Are the increases of energy prices transitory or temporary? How does the current energy price shock impact competitiveness? Should governments aim for effective energy networks or energy independence? What are the prospects for greater reliance on renewable energy sources as a decarbonisation strategy? How to modernize the overall transport infrastructure, including climate mitigation, adaptation and preparation of Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure combined with EV rollout? What are the best practices in improving energy efficiency? How to finance the green transition and build a sustainable economy? Can we build a sustainable municipal infrastructure, which includes air pollution, urban transport challenges, water infrastructure, waste water and solid waste management?

Panel 5. Infrastructure, Connectivity, and Trade

Developing infrastructure and services that are viable, green, resilient, well-governed, integrated, and inclusive, can drive sustainable development. A new emerging trend of increased geopolitical importance in trade policies, infrastructure and connectivity poses challenges especially to small countries and their growth prospects. What are the investment priorities in the region of South-eastern Europe? Are the latest events a turning point in regional cooperation? How to balance between short political gains and long-term development impact of infrastructure projects? How to increase implementation capacity to speed up the closing of the infrastructure gap? How to secure a fiscal space for infrastructure investments? How to mobilize the private sector in upgrading the energy infrastructure? What types of infrastructure will be most needed in the next 5, 10, 20 years? How to promote Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to involve the private sector in the government initiatives? Which sectors lend themselves more to PPPs? How to make the investments in energy successful even with private sector involvement only?

PILLAR 4. BEYOND THE CRISIS: DRIVERS FOR SUSTAINING GROWTH

Panel 6. Financial Innovations and Investments Under Uncertainty

Emergence of new alternative investment instruments, more intensive and direct engagement of a broad investor public (“democratization of markets”) accompanied by high valuations and increased usage of technology in finance, are some of the trends marking the recent period. Abrupt drastic changes in the markets and the rising uncertainty exposed the potential need for innovation in hedging strategies and instruments. How can financial markets adapt in times of uncertainty? Are the retail investors the new drivers of the markets and how should regulation adjust? Will Fintech revolutionize intermediation and investing? Is the cybersecurity concern an asset for the traditional financial institutions? What is the future of new alternative asset classes? How is the concept of money and investment changing?

Panel 7. New Challenges to Good Governance

Rule of law, fight against corruption and organized crime, professional, efficient, and impartial judiciary system are key prerequisites for protection of human rights and creation of a growth-enabling environment. Institutional quality holds the key to prevailing patterns of prosperity around the world. What are the key challenges in promoting good governance? How to speed up public administration reforms? Is there visible progress in fighting corruption in the region? How can institutions support the economic recovery?

Panel 8. Human Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Human capital is a major driving factor behind productivity, competitiveness, innovation, long-term growth prospects, and poverty reduction. To improve their human capital, countries must invest more in the quality and equity of education. Can governments devote sufficient policy attention to human capital in (post-)pandemic times? What is the risk of systematic under-investment in health and education? Can we assess the economic toll from pandemic-related losses in human capital and how could this be addressed? How to sustain long-term commitments across election cycles? How to address the brain drain? How to engage the Diaspora in driving economic development?