The World Bank Group works with countries in Europe and Central Asia to help improve people's lives and achieve shared prosperity in a variety of ways, including through financial lending and analytical and advisory services. Our work aims to help countries achieve better competitiveness, more inclusive growth, and to adapt to climate change and improve energy efficiency.
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SOFIA, September 10, 2014 – The World Bank continues its partnership with Bulgaria, supporting the country to make the most of its EU membership. The recent appointment of a new World Bank Countr... Show More +y Manager for Bulgaria is further illustration of the institutional commitment to work for ending poverty and promote shared prosperity in the country.Mr. Antony (Tony) Thompson, an Irish national, has been appointed Country Manager for Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Mr. Thompson came to Bulgaria following four years working as Acting Director for Strategy and Operations Manager for the Human Development Network, based in World Bank Group headquarters in Washington, DC. He was officially introduced to the Bulgarian Government today by Ms. Mamta Murthi, World Bank Country Director for Central Europe and the Baltic Countries.“The partnership between Bulgaria and the World Bank Group dates back over 20 years. The cooperation continuous to be strong and sound, and now focuses on shared prosperity and growth that works for all,” Murthi said after her meetings with Ekaterina Zaharieva, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Policy and Minister of Regional Development and Investment Planning, and Rumen Porodzanov, Minister of Finance.“It is very inspiring to see Bulgaria’s achievements in the last 20 years – transforming from a fledgling market economy to an upper-middle income member of the European Union (EU) in just two decades. We are glad the World Bank has been among Bulgaria’s partners in this journey, and I feel privileged to personally work in support of Bulgaria’s economic reform,”said Tony Thompson, new World Bank Country Manager for Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Show Less -
Another critical result of the rehabilitation is the reduction of dust pollution, residents say. Villages closest to the old road suffered the most, especially in terms of residents' health and agricu... Show More +ltural production. Crops had to be washed thoroughly before being taken to markets and much of the produce (berries, grapes, and apricots) were wasted in the process. Now, residents notice much less cases of respiratory diseases caused by dust; and agricultural products can be directly delivered to the market, thus reducing economic loss, which occurred while washing the dust away from the products.Once all sections of Osh-Batken-Isfana road is fully renovated, the World Bank’s assistance to the country in rehabilitating its important road infrastructure won’t cease. The new Central Asia Road Links Project will help improve transport connectivity between the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, benefitting more than three million residents in both countries. Show Less -
ZAGREB, September 10, 2014 – World Bank Vice President and Treasurer, Madelyn Antoncic, today completed a two-day visit to Croatia. The aim of her trip was to identify areas where the World Bank can a... Show More +ssist in supporting Croatia’s growth goals. During her visit, Antoncic met with the Ministry of Finance, the Croatian National Bank and the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development.While in Croatia, Antoncic also visited the World Bank-supported Second Coastal Cities Pollution Control Project, which is helping to safeguard the quality of Croatia’s coastal waters and its environment, both of strategic importance to the country’s tourism industry, the livelihoods of local communities, and marine life. The project is constructing and upgrading wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal systems along the Adriatic coast, and is helping Croatia meet the European Union (EU) directives in the water sector. Accompanied by Carlos Piñerúa, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia, representatives of the Croatian Waters organization, and Darijo Vasilic, the Mayor of Krk, Antoncic visited project locations on the Island of Krk.“Croatia is an important partner for the World Bank,” emphasized Antoncic. “We provide regular guidance on lending and financial risk management choices to help Croatia make optimal use of its credit line with the World Bank. The purpose of my visit was to demonstrate our continued commitment to delivering financial solutions and advisory services to help Croatia meet its growth goals.”The World Bank Group strategy aims to help the authorities in addressing key challenges for economic recovery and maximizing the benefits of EU membership. The World Bank Treasury develops innovative products to meet clients' requests for customized financing and risk management, including loans, contingent financing, guarantees, hedging products, and disaster risk financing to support development programs.Since joining the World Bank in 1993, Croatia has benefited from financial and technical assistance, policy advice, and analytical services provided by the global development institution. To date, the World Bank has supported 51 operations, amounting to around US$3.5 billion, and has approved 53 grants totaling US$74 million. Show Less -
Tashkent, September 8, 2014 – The World Bank and the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea signed today a Memorandum of Understanding, which strengthens their cooperati... Show More +on aimed at improving water management, social, economic and environmental situation in the Central Asian region. The Memorandum was signed by Mr. Shavkat Khamraev, Acting Chairman of the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (EC-IFAS), and Mr. Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia.The Memorandum sets the framework for identifying and developing a set of activities under the Third Aral Sea Basin Management Program to provide support to the IFAS Founder States – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- in raising the well-being of people in Central Asia by improving water management and achieving sustainable development in the Aral Sea Basin.“The Memorandum which we have signed today takes cooperation between the World Bank and the IFAS to a new level. Together we have committed to identifying a number of important activities that will support the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on the flows of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers,” said Saroj Kumar Jha. “This work is particularly important as all economies in the region will face new challenges brought by strong economic growth and climate change. We are happy to partner with the Executive Committee of the IFAS, which plays an important role in convening the member countries to work cooperatively in addressing these challenges and capturing opportunities for improving water management.”The World Bank and the EC-IFAS will work together with the member countries to define potential regional and national investment projects and technical assistance including analytical work, knowledge exchange, and capacity strengthening among the IFAS member states. Such projects could focus on regional data sharing and information management system, improved water use and efficiency, dam safety and disaster risk management.To define the scope and design of potential regional and national projects, the Bank and the EC-IFAS will closely coordinate and cooperate with each of the five IFAS member states and the regional institutions, in particular the Interstate Commission on Water Coordination (ICWC), the Interstate Commission on Sustainable Development (ICSD), and the Regional Center of Hydrology (RCH). Show Less -
Distinguished guests, Ladies and GentlemenThank you for inviting me today to this panel on delivery quality and achieving better performance in cohesion policy. Let me start with saying that the... Show More + World Bank sees restoring of European’s citizens confidence in the future as a top priority for the upcoming years. While it is a top priority for all parts of Europe, today I will speak from the perspective of the 11 countries of Central and Eastern Europe that I cover as part of my duties at the World Bank.Cohesion Policy is similar, in many respects, to the objectives of the World Bank in developing countries and emerging markets. As with Cohesion Policy, the World Bank aims through its instruments to improve conditions for growth and jobs, to help reduce poverty and increase shared prosperity. We work at both the country level - with national and sub-national authorities - and at EU level - with the European Commission and other European partners.It is worth noting that all member states that joined after 2004 have benefited from both the World Bank’s advisory services and its financial support prior to and at beginning of accession. The World Bank is still active in many of these countries, substantially supporting cohesion policies in PL, RO, BG, and HR and, more recently, since the crisis of 2008, providing technical support to countries like Cyprus and Greece. Throughout the focus of the World Bank is to support policy and institutional changes rather than financing per se.For the purposes of today’s discussion, I would like to share our experience from our work in Central and Eastern Europe, as I believe that even though specific mechanisms and institutions vary between the Bank and the EU, some main lessons on what’s worked and what could be changed going forward, might be useful to share, and in some cases, to apply in many countries in EuropeThere are three main observations to highlight from World Bank experience, or to put it differently three main ways in which the results focus of policies can be enhanced.First, strengthening a country’s macroeconomic fundamentals provides the basis for sustained engagement to reduce poverty and improve shared prosperity.Second, the development and implementation of sustainable government strategies to guide and improve the quality of policy making and performance is extremely important.Third, ex ante conditionalities related to enhancing the capacity of intermediary bodies or implementing agencies can support faster and more effective implementation.Given the time constraints and the experience and expertise of today’s audience, I would like to be very specific and give you a few examples of the World Bank’s work and experience in support of each of these observationsLet me turn to my first point: strengthening a country’s macroeconomic fundamentals.I believe we can all agree that enhancing macroeconomic resilience, through sound fiscal and financial systems, is necessary for growth, employment creation and shared prosperity. Besides reducing the cost of access to finance, this also allows a country to make more appropriate choices in terms of allocating domestic and EU resources efficiently, developing medium-term strategies that are translated into good investment plans and budgets, and hence better performance.To this end, the World Bank has used budget support lending operations to support policy reforms in Poland, in Romania and in Croatia. The policy reforms supported include a reduction of general government fiscal deficit and debt levels (such as in Poland, Croatia), strengthening of fiscal management and SOE performance (for example, Romania and Croatia), and improvements the environment for doing business and the functioning of markets (all three).In each area the World Bank has provided considerable technical assistance to support the reform agenda.Importantly, we do not see these operations as one-off interventions, but as a key part of an ongoing engagement in each country, which evolves and can be tailored to specific external and domestic circumstance. It is this ongoing engagement that enables the World Bank to support structural reforms that need several years/EU semester cycles to accomplishNaturally we are coordinated with the EU’s new economic governance framework.Now, my second point. The development and implementation of sector strategies to guide and improve the quality of policy making is extremely important.World Bank experience recognizes that general prescriptions often fail and that growth and employment creation policies need to be tailored to each country, be time-specific and provide a link between country objectives, sector strategy and key reforms.The existence of sector strategies means that investment carried out by state or local governments is defined under the same umbrella, whether funded by EU sources or national sources. In some cases, development of sector strategies as an ex-ante conditionality can be helpful in shifting the focus from absorption to selecting investments in an integrated manner with other investment not funded by EU. Of course, development of sector strategies can require technical support. The World Bank is involved in support of sector strategies in many sectors in Romania, as well in Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland In Poland the World Bank has built on its work to support the business environment mentioned previously to assist the Government to achieve greater efficiency and coherence from its regional and national innovation policies and programs. We have also provided inputs to strengthen the forthcoming national Smart Growth Operation Program.In Bulgaria, we provided inputs into the new Water Supply and Sanitation Strategy and are now helping the Government to strengthening the functions and capacity of the water sector regulator. In Romania, the World Bank is supporting the development of the government’s Strategies for Active Ageing and for Lifelong Learning and its National Strategy on Social Inclusion, particularly for the Roma population.Third and finally ex ante conditionalities related to capacity of sectors, intermediary bodies or implementing agencies can support faster implementation, and provide government’s with the tools they need.Irrespective of beneficiary specific capacity, government agencies and ministries need to have strategic planning capacity, be able to articulate policies and manage their budgeting and implementation.In the absence of requisite capacity, countries may decide to allocate money to the investment priorities for which less effort is needed to comply with the related ex-ante conditionalities within the specified timeframe, or to target resources at the beneficiary which has the most capacity irrespective of the impact. There is therefore a balancing act between absorption and impact.In order to support more effective use of funds, the World Bank is working with authorities to strengthen their administrative capacity and the planning/programming capacity.In Romania, we are helping to strengthen institutional and human capacity in the agencies and local governments responsible for investment in the main regional infrastructure, as well as in public investment management at both central and regional levelsIn Bulgaria we are strengthening the planning and programming capacity of the road agency, which is one of the main beneficiaries of EU funds for regional and some TEN-T programs, complementing EIB support.In Croatia, we have provided technical assistance to enhance selected institutions readiness for entry into the EU, raising their awareness of the opportunities and challenges of efficiently utilizing EU funds. We have also been strengthening water institutions for many years. We are also providing, through a lending instrument, support to strengthen the government’s capacity to monitor effective health sector policiesHaving described how we work and the main lessons, let me describe what we work on and turn to the issue of thematic concentration. What we have observed is, while growth-enhancing policies coupled with investments are important for job creation but their efficiency varies across European regions and depends on the phase of the business cycleOur experience shows that Sustained market orientated reforms pay off in terms of greater job creation and increased productivity (for example Poland and the Baltics), harnessing the potential of entrepreneurship – the so-called ‘Gazelles’ - is also very important to boosting job creation (for example innovation support in Poland).Much more emphasis on skills is needed as many workers, especially younger and older workers, are ill prepared to succeed in today’s dynamic labor market because they lack the skills that employers needHigh labor taxes and the design of pensions and social benefits often discourage employment, and multiple barriers exclude many women, minorities, youth, and older workers from the labor marketWorkers often fail to move to places with stronger job creation potential within their own countries, making it difficult to connect them with jobs in more vibrant regions.Much greater attention is needed to all these areas, especially skills and mobility.Today, I wanted to give you a set of practical examples of what the World Bank has been doing in Central and Eastern Europe and what are the main lessons from our experience.Our essential observations are three: strengthening a country’s macroeconomic fundamentals provides the basis for sustained engagement to increase growth and jobs and increase shared prosperity; it is extremely important to develop but more importantly implement a set of sustainable government strategies that link country circumstances and objectives to key reforms; and ex ante conditionalities related to enhancing capacity - tailored to country circumstances – are important for cohesion policy. In the case of this programming period countries have been slow to define their needs. This can hamper effective use of resources if not addressed quickly.Overall much greater attention needs to be paid to the issue of skills and mobility that was previously the case.Thank you for your attention. Show Less -
In May, the Balkan region experienced its heaviest rainfall in 120 years. Water flowing over riverbanks inundated farms, homes, and entire communities, while thousands of landslides wreaked havoc on t... Show More +he area’s infrastructure. Nearly 1.6 million people were affected by the severe downpours, which continued over a week. Dozens of people perished in Serbia, where some cities were more than 90 percent underwater and tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate. In Bosnia, flooding caused nearly $2.7 billion in damages—a major setback to its growing economy.Globally, natural disasters like the 2014 Southeast Europe floods have caused damages of nearly $4 trillion over the past 30 years. In smaller developing countries, such disasters can wash away decades of development gains and impede social and economic progress for years to come. And with the confluence of population growth, rapid urbanization, and climate change, the frequency and intensity of these events will continue to rise, further outpacing humanitarian assistance and derailing sustainable development goals.In the wake of these devastating events, however, there is also a unique opportunity to take development in a new direction – one that promises a safer, more resilient future for countries and their citizens.This week, hundreds of experts, policymakers and practitioners will gather in Washington, D.C., for the second World Reconstruction Conference to explore how to use post-disaster recovery and reconstruction processes to create better lives and livelihoods around the world. Organized by the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union, the conference addresses the need to reframe national and multilateral approaches to reconstruction and help governments better prepare to respond to disasters quickly and effectively.“While disasters pose a threat to vulnerable communities around the world, countries can capitalize on the lessons and good practice of governments and partner institutions around the world,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change. “It takes shared action to build stronger physical infrastructures and establish the policies and mechanisms necessary to create more resilient economies.” The Recovery Framework Guide, launched at the conference, does just that. It provides guidance for governments to better design and implement comprehensive disaster recovery programs. Institutionalizing services like income support programs, schools and hospitals retrofitting, and resilient housing incentives is an effective way to reduce disaster risk and help communities rebound faster following a major event. Nine country case studies accompany the guide, compiling lessons learned from disasters over the last decade.The 2005 earthquake in Pakistan – one of the case studies explored in the publication – destroyed over 600,000 homes and claimed over 75,000 lives. The government responded by implementing a public subsidy program for housing reconstruction. Instead of lump-sum payments, households meeting the government’s newly set seismic-resistant standards received government support in instalments. Over 400,000 homes were rebuilt – 90 percent of which were in compliance with the new seismic codes, better preparing the region for future earthquakes. Show Less -