SOFIA, January 11, 2024 – The World Bank will provide analytical and advisory support to the Bulgarian Ministry of Regional Development by sharing global best practices and ideas for integrated regional investments. An agreement for the provision of Reimbursable Advisory Services to strengthen the institutional capacity for Integrated Territorial Development Approaches to Regional Development in Bulgaria was signed today by Andrey Tsekov, Minister of Regional Development and Public Works of the Republic of Bulgaria and Lasse Melgaard, World Bank Resident Representative for Bulgaria, Czechia, and Slovakia.
“Integrated development in Bulgaria requires investments and comprehensive partnerships that incorporate ideas and expertise from a wide range of stakeholders including the communities that stand to gain the most,” said Lasse Melgaard, the World Bank’s Resident Representative for Bulgaria, Czechia, and Slovakia. “As a leading development institution, it is a privilege for the World Bank to help connect the country with global knowledge and experience on supporting lagging regions for the benefit of all Bulgarians.”
“We are adopting an innovative approach for regional development. It consists of changing the paradigm and individual regions and municipalities should not any more look for expertise from one place or from different international entities, but now the global knowledge will go directly to the field, to the people, and to their investment needs”, said Andrey Tsekov, Minister of Regional Development and Public Works at the signing. According to him this change will be of benefit of all people especially this year when a lot of local investments are expected. “Our presence in the regions is of utmost importance”, the Minister said.
Since entering the European Union in 2007 Bulgaria has benefited from EU grants and funding, but still regional inequalities persist. For instance, five out of Bulgaria’s six second-level regions, technically called NUTS 2 regions, are considered lagging due to their low-income status. These deepening inequalities can be attributed to many factors including concentrated urban development in a few key urban centers, negative demographic trends, depopulation, poor connectivity within and between regions, and unequal basic service provision.
To address these development challenges Bulgaria adopted a new approach for regional development funding that implements integrated territorial investments (ITIs) targeted at the root causes of the specific growth bottlenecks in each region. These integrated investments allow packages of projects based on regional needs to be funded from different programs under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).
Over the next 30 months a team of World Bank Experts will work with different stakeholders on regional and central level to increase awareness, strengthen ownership, and boost leadership over integrated regional investments approach. The Bank will deliver capacity building program consisting of 30 workshops, but ultimately it is expected to improve the quality of existing strategies, plans and projects by providing best practices examples and building partnerships.
This is the third engagement under the new Framework Agreement for Reimbursable Advisory Services, signed with the Government of Bulgaria last year and designed to provide knowledge support for 2021-2027 EU-programming period. The advisory work builds upon several years of engagement on the topic of regional and urban development, including previous advisory work around regional development policy, decarbonization of regions and compact city development.
Reimbursable Advisory Services are a special World Bank instrument offered in middle- and high-income countries. Under these programs, the World Bank works with countries at their request, providing advisory services, analytical services, and implementation support. The Bank is then reimbursed for the costs of delivering these advisory services.