People in Bulgaria Aspire For Shared Prosperity and Equal Opportunities for All

July 19, 2016


  • Bulgaria has gone through a long transition over the last three decades, with the World Bank being a trusted partner throughout.
  • In-country consultations helped inform the new Country Partnership Strategy (CPF) for Bulgaria.
  • The focus area of investing in people in the new CPF was developed after visiting nine locations around the country.

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.


In Plovdiv, the second biggest city in Bulgaria, these discussions revealed that skills matter and employers are concerned about finding people with adequate skills. The Mayor of Malko Tarnovo, a small, southern town near the Turkish border, shared his concerns about the depopulation of the municipality and the challenges of delivering essential services.

In Yambol, we learned that early childhood development services generate hope, and in Burgas we discussed the importance of infrastructure and connectivity, along with improving education outcomes.

In Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval capital of Bulgaria, we heard how the delivery of social and health services by municipalities is contributing to economic prospects, and, in Blagoevgrad, university professors and students called for a rethinking of the current growth model.

The town of Ruse, along the Danube, presented another opportunity to touch base with academics and members of civil society, while in Vratsa we got a first-hand glimpse of long-term care services being provided by the Bulgarian Red Cross.

These national stakeholder consultations led to the introduction of a special focus area in the new CPF, called Investing in People. This area reflects a shared commitment by the government and the World Bank Group to ensure that the benefits of economic growth accrue for all Bulgarians and provide an opportunity for everyone to contribute to the country’s prosperity.

Investing in people is a clear priority for the government of Bulgaria, which is using the national budget and support from the EU to further this agenda. The World Bank will contribute to these efforts by focusing on analytical work and dialogue and will simultaneously leverage its cooperation with the European Commission and other partners.

Among the first areas that the World Bank will focus its analytical efforts on are early childhood development policies and servicesand a way of providing integrated, essential services to everyone in Bulgaria. Building on a recent report on aging, the World Bank will also continue to support the national dialogue on demographic challenges, along with more in-depth research on skills and the employability of the Bulgarian workforce.