Zagreb, January 23, 2014 – The World Bank Regional Director for Central Europe and the Baltic Countries, Ms. Mamta Murthi, visited Croatia with the objective of further strengthening the World Bank support to the authorities in addressing key challenges for economic recovery and maximizing the benefits of European Union (EU) membership.
During her visit Ms. Murthi met with H.E. Milanka Opačić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Policy and Youth, to discuss how the Bank can further support the reforms of the social protection system to make it more efficient while ensuring that the most vulnerable groups in society are better targeted. Through the Social Protection System Modernization Project which is under preparation, the Bank is supporting the authorities in these efforts.
With Mr. Saša Zelenika, Deputy Minister of Science, Education and Sports, topics of discussion focused on enhancing Croatia’s innovation potential and human capital and the specific support the World Bank is providing for performance based budgeting for higher education and research institutions.
With Mr. Jakša Puljiz, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds, Ms. Murthi discussed the prospects for absorption of EU funds for the 2014-2020 financial perspective and how the Bank is supporting Croatia’s preparation of EU programming documents, such as the National Reform Programme. Ms. Murthi also used the opportunity to commend Croatia on the good absorption results in 2013.
Finally, with H.E. Slavko Linić, Minister of Finance, Ms. Murthi discussed Croatia’s fiscal consolidation efforts in advance of the European Commission’s Excessive Deficit procedure as well as other structural reforms in support of economic recovery. In particular, the discussion focused on the reform program which the World Bank is supporting through the Second Economic Recovery Development Policy Loan which is under preparation and closely coordinated with the Ministry of Finance and the European Commission.
‘Croatia is indeed going through a very difficult period and the government has over the last quarter pushed ahead many important structural reforms in the social sectors and business environment. However, the government is facing a very challenging task of having to tame public debt growth and reduce public expenditures while at the same time trying to protect the vulnerable. This is never easy, especially as results of reforms on economic growth and competitiveness are not seen and felt overnight but take several years to have full effect.’ said Mamta Murthi, World Bank Regional Director for Central Europe and the Baltic Countries. ‘Sustaining and pushing forward with the reform efforts to restore macro stability, but equally promote sustainable growth and employment, is a priority,’ concluded Murthi.
Since joining the World Bank in 1993, Croatia received support from the World Bank in the form of financial and technical assistance, policy advice, and analytical services. To date, the Bank has supported 49 projects in the amount of US$3.3 billion, and it has approved 52 grants with a total value of US$70 million.