A newly-endorsed World Bank Group Country Partnership Framework (CPF) FY17-FY22 for Bulgaria was informed by eight-month-long consultations
Bulgaria’s transformation into a democratic, modern society and economy started in 1989. Nearly 27 years after this major political shift, Bulgaria is now an open, vibrant, modern state - and a full-fledged member of the European Union (EU) which enjoys upper middle income status. Both high hopes and disillusion colored this transition, but the World Bank Group (WBG) remained a trusted partner for the country in times of big achievements and hardships alike.
This partnership continues as the country now travels the path towards convergence with EU living standards. As part of this cooperation, the World Bank has developed a new Country Partnership Strategy (CPF) covering the next six years. This document was informed by a series of consultations that took place across the country, allowing representatives from the World Bank to listen from all stakeholders and learn about the challenges and aspirations they foresee in the years to come.
We learned a lot, found new friends, enjoyed hospitality and smiles, tried to understand the obstacles faced by various groups, and discussed their ideas on how to overcome these obstacles. Our impression was that shared prosperity and equal opportunities for all were among the key aspirations of all the Bulgarians we met.
Shared prosperity indicators are a concern in Bulgaria. Income growth of 1.3% per year between 2007 and 2012 among the bottom 40% of the population was slower than the 1.4% average for the entire population. Most income growth among the bottom 40% took place during the economic upturn (2007-08) but the ensuing global economic crisis undid some of these gains, especially for the poorest - whose incomes declined with the loss of many low-skilled jobs.
Promoting shared prosperity is one of the twin goals of the WBG and underpins the new CPF for Bulgaria by focusing on two broad areas: (i) strengthening institutions for sustainable growth; and (ii) investing in people. These areas are aligned with priorities identified by the respondents of the Country Opinion Survey on the role of the WBG in Bulgaria, conducted in 2015. (Read the survey here)
In order to validate the findings of the Systematic Country Diagnostic for Bulgaria (SCD), the team undertook a road-show - visiting nine locations across Bulgaria (watch the video). During these trips the team benefited from a mix of candid and more formal feedback from individuals - generating a lot of goodwill from various leadership teams in each location. In most of the locations, the in-country consultations were performed in partnership with a team of representatives from the European Commission in Bulgaria, led by the head of the mission.