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Procurement seminars proliferating
Journal of Commerce / July 22, 1998

By Larry Luxner

WASHINGTON -- The World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank and half a dozen other multilateral lending agencies spend $30 billion a year on consulting services, technology, equipment and infrastructure ranging from power lines to PCs, sidewalks to sewer pipes.

Not surprisingly, this has spawned a lucrative business in "how-to" conferences -- particularly in Washington, where both the World Bank and the IDB are headquartered. Companies eager to supply products and services to multilateral development banks (MDBs, as they're known) are well aware that in 1997, for example, the IDB disbursed a record $5.4 billion -- up from $4.3 billion in 1996. The agency awarded thousands of contracts last year to support projects as diverse as a $20 million loan for reforming Peru's judicial system to $300 million to rehabilitate 4,000 miles of Brazilian highways.

Kathy Sánchez, public information officer at the IDB, says her bank finances projects in 26 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The bank tends to focus on the social sectors -- health, education, urban development and the environment -- and for an attendance fee of $200, it offers procurement conferences focused on a different sector each month; this includes a one-year subscription to the magazine IDB Projects.

"It's a matter of finding out about the projects as early as possible," she said. "We've got a number of resources at the bank, the most important being IDB Projects. Making contact with the executing agency in the country that'll be doing the hiring is also a very important step. So is following up on a continuing basis to make sure what the status of the project is."

The IDB will hold eight business seminars and two procurement workshops in 1998. A recent IDB conference, for example, focuses on health-care procurement opportunities; a similar meeting will analyze information technology. "Telecom isn't one of the industries we cover," says Sánchez, "because there is so much money in the private sector, and we're a lender of last resort."

Ivonne Lejuez, conference coordinator at the World Bank, says her procurement seminars -- which cost $100 each -- are of a more general nature than those of the IDB.

"Attendance has increased tremendously through the years," she said. "When we first started doing this seven years ago, managers would send their assistants. Now the people attending are mostly presidents, vice-presidents and managers of companies."

Normally, 50 to 80 people attend the World Bank's procurement seminars, which are always held in Washington but attract participants from all over the world.

Besides the banks themselves, at least three companies organize seminars that teach executives the practical aspects of multilateral development bank (MDB) procurement procedures.

Washington-based Development Bank Associates Inc. holds a two-day course entitled "Winning Development Bank Bids." Seminars coordinator Katya Silver says the meetings cost $900 per person and are usually held in Washington, but that "we're looking into the possibility of holding them in South American countries as well."

DBA's courses explain the difference between Build-Own-Operate and Build-Own-Transfer; they delve into key stages of the procurement process, how to ensure a level playing field, what to do after submitting a bid, and how to win even if someone else is declared the winner.

"It's a training course for company exectives who are already involved in bidding with the bank, or would like to be involved," Silver explains. "It basically explains how the banks operate, and talks about types of bids and timelines, and teaches executives how to operate in this market, and how to prepare themselves through intelligence and marketing."

For more information, contact the following organizations:

DEVELOPMENT BANK ASSOCIATES: Katya Silver, 1901 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite #307, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: (202) 785-2971. Fax: (202) 857-0385. E-mail:

INTER-AMERICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK: Kathy Sánchez, 1300 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: (202) 623-1364. Fax: (202) 623-1403. E-mail:

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS: 225 Turnpike Road, Southborough, MA 01772. Tel: (508) 481-6400. Fax: (508) 481-7911. E-mail:

WORLD BANK: Ivonne Lejuez, Room MC10-436, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20433. Tel: (202) 473-1819. Fax: (202) 522-3318. E-mail:

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