“Poverty and ignorance don’t kill you, but they make life very difficult,” said Fulvia Brizuela in Guarani, the country’s indigenous language, as she moves her factory-worn hands up and down as if she were weaving her dreams of a better future.
“We need more education, job training and opportunities,” added the textile-mill worker and mother of six children, three of whom have emigrated to Spain to seek work.
Fulvia’s remarks illustrate two of the country’s greatest challenges: poor education and pervasive poverty. Almost 60 percent of Paraguayan workers have only a primary education or less, and in 2007 19.4 percent of Paraguayan households lived in extreme poverty.
A major challenge for Fernando Lugo, Paraguay’s new president who took office in August, 2008, has been to improve economic and social development indicators in a sustainable manner.
A Fresh Partnership
To aid these efforts, the World Bank approved a new Country Partnership Strategy for 2009-2013, which will support the country’s economic and social goals, focusing on poverty reduction and promoting equitable economic growth.
The Strategy has three main components: Governance, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction. The Bank will focus its partnership efforts in these areas with a budget of US$500 million.
“It is important to share and strengthen the vision of transforming the country into a more equitable and thriving society,” said Pedro Alba, World Bank director for Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. “We are increasing our project portfolio and strengthening our presence at the local level,” he added.
The new country partnership strategy “is a huge support for the Economic Reactivation Plan to help protect and create employment and fund social safety nets, with an emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable segments of the Paraguayan population,” said Dionisio Borda, Paraguay’s finance minister.
This new plan will renew the World Bank’s commitment to Paraguay, which currently totals US$308.5 million and includes six investment operations for community development projects, education, infrastructure, rural development and public sector support