World Bank Group Assistance
The World Bank Group provided $11.9 billion to Europe and Central Asia (ECA) during fiscal year 2014, aimed at reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the region. Of this, IBRD/IDA provided $5.6 billion of support to the region, IFC delivered $4.7 billion in commitments, and MIGA provided $1.6 billion in political risk insurance and credit enhancement coverage.
The World Bank supports clients’ needs with innovative, demand-driven operations. The Bank also acts quickly and effectively to respond to urgent situations, such as the crisis in Ukraine, and the catastrophic floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in May.
Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS)
Middle-income countries interested in highly specific knowledge services that exceed what the Bank can finance from its own resources are increasingly accessing Bank technical expertise using Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS). Under RAS programs, the Bank works with countries at their request and provides reimbursable technical advice. ECA has been engaged in 158 RAS programs since 2006. Countries that have signed RAS agreements include: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Poland, the Republic of Cyprus, Romania, the Russian Federation, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, and Turkmenistan.
Some notable outcomes of our lending and RAS work include:
- In Poland, following 200 years of flooding of the Odra River Basin, thousands of homes – and millions of residents – are now protected, and 60,000 ancient artifacts were found and conserved during archaeological excavations as part of the flood protection project work along Poland’s Odra River.
- In Greece, technical support from the WBG has helped the country climb 28 ranks in the last two Doing Business rankings through our RAS work focusing on improving the business environment.
- In FYR Macedonia, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program has increased secondary education enrollment by 10 percentage points. Approximately 7,500 children from poor families, who would not otherwise attend school, regularly attended secondary school in the school year 2013–14 thanks to the new CCT benefit. The coverage of the CCT secondary education program increased from about 67 percent of eligible children in the first year of implementation to about 86 percent in 2012-13.
- In Tajikistan, regulatory reforms aimed at improving the business environment have cut the length of time that it takes to start a business from 62 days to 24 days. In addition, the number of required business permits was reduced from 609 down to 85 – a measure that is expected to help the private sector save around US$18 million annually.
- In Albania, 607 classrooms and laboratories were constructed or rehabilitated, and over 24,000 computers and internet connectivity to schools were provided, reducing the students per computer ratio from 46 to 14 students per computer in urban centers and from 133 to 13 students per computer in rural areas.
Please go to “Results in ECA” for more examples of the Bank’s work in ECA.
Analytical Work Highlights
In addition to its financial products and RASs, the Bank produced important research about critical issues in the region during the past fiscal year. Through its analytical work, the World Bank aims to bring global knowledge and adapt it to the needs of ECA countries.
The Shared Prosperity: Paving the Way in Europe and Central Asia report finds that countries in ECA have done relatively well in ensuring that their populations have shared in overall prosperity, but that progress has been uneven and its long-term sustainability is under question. The report says that the average income of the bottom 40 percent of the income scale across the entire region increased by 3.8 percent, about 20 percent more than average income growth at the national level, between 2005 and 2010. However, this growth was not distributed equally across countries.
ECA followed up its Golden Growth: Restoring the Lustre of the European Economic Model report with its Diversified Development: Making the Most of Natural Resources in Eurasia report, produced in partnership with the Eurasian Development Bank. This report finds that having natural resources does not have to be a curse – it can be a blessing if the countries ensure proper management of revenues from natural resources, invest earnings in building up physical and human capital, and improve institutions. Going forward, sustained growth of the bottom 40 percent will require structural policies that facilitate access to assets and reconcile equity and growth for all.
A package of analysis entitled the Face of Poverty in Europe and Central Asia focuses on the specific challenges of poverty in the ECA region, where some 80 million people live on less than $5 per day and struggle to meet basic needs. High heating bills during long, harsh winters, and the higher caloric intake required to survive the cold make for a higher cost of subsistence than in other regions. Unemployment and low wages are the major factors that keep people in poverty in ECA.
The Inverting Pyramid: Pension Systems Facing Demographic Challenges in Europe and Central Asia report examines how pension systems in ECA are facing increasing pressures from the region’s aging populations and shrinking labor force. These demographic pressures make it imperative for countries to work on comprehensive, long-term, and socially sustainable reforms to put in place pension systems that protect the elderly poor and future generations.
The Back to Work: Growing with Jobs in Europe and Central Asia report recommends actions to create more and better jobs in ECA in two main policy areas: 1) laying the fundamentals for job creation through an enabling macroeconomic and business environment that allows existing firms to grow and new firms to emerge and succeed or fail quickly and at low cost; and 2) supporting workers to tap into new job opportunities so that they have the right skills and work incentives, unhindered access to the labor market, and are able to move to places that offer more job opportunities.
The recent Looking Beyond the Horizon: How Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Responses Will Reshape Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia publication and the subsequent country-specific reports examine the challenges and opportunities being created in the agriculture sector in Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan. Through economy-wide modeling of water supply and demand, the analysis finds that, in many cases, water availability for irrigation will be severely curtailed by climate change. This will greatly exacerbate the effects of climate change on crops – especially irrigated crops – with potential yield reductions of 20–50 percent by 2050. The report also offer countries practical advice on how to help their agricultural sectors adapt to shifts in climate, in a combined effort to both decrease the vulnerability of farmers to climate variability and bolster their ability to capitalize on potential gains presented by a changing climate.
The ECA region also provides timely monitoring of economic trends and prospects in the region through its Regular Economic Reports for the EU111, Belarus, Moldova, Russian Federation, South East Europe2, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Individual Country Program Snapshots are updated twice a year, and include analyses of the economy, sectors, and the World Bank's activities in country. They also include Project Briefs, which detail the projects' objectives, results, and financing.
1) The EU11 refers to the 11 European Union (EU) member states that joined the EU after 2004 – Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia.
2) Six countries are included in South East Europe (SEE6) — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.