Speeches & Transcripts

Speech of Markus Repnik, World Bank Country Manager for Bulgaria

May 31, 2011

Markus Repnik Sofia, Bulgaria

As Prepared for Delivery

33 Bulgarian municipalities receive funding for social services to small children from poor families

It is great to be here together today. What brings us together is our common goal to improve chances of small children - small children from poor families, including Roma families, as well as children with disabilities - to improve chances for a better life of these children. What we all want to see is a Bulgaria of well educated citizens with good jobs that generate welfare for everybody. What we all want to see is breaking the vicious circle of poverty and exclusion. If a society aims at well educated citizens, what are the most important years to increase the likelihood of better life chances?

International research shows that it is the first years in life that are so important, the early childhood years, the years before school starts, the “initial seven years” as you say here in Bulgaria. And this brings us to our event today. Today, financing agreements for more than 30 projects in municipalities all over the country are being signed. These projects have one common goal – to improve life chances for poor and disabled children at a very early age. The projects finance improved infrastructure and services for these children. The Government is contributing resources provided by the World Bank, and each and every municipality taking on the responsibility and providing complementary resources. But while money is of course important, it is more important that these resources are translated into improved and innovative services for these children, creating the results we all want to see – improved life chances for the most vulnerable children in society.

And if these projects prove to be successful, future funding would come from EU funds. Please allow me a final remark. While it is crucially important for each and every poor or disabled child to get a chance for a better life, it is also crucially important for the whole society – from a social and from an economic point of view. Because World Bank research shows that the costs of inaction, the costs of exclusion, are very high. Across Europe, too many people lack sufficient education to find proper jobs. In Bulgaria, for example, only 13% of working age Roma completed secondary education, compared to almost 90% for the rest of the population. And low education leads to poor jobs with low income.

If we want to break this vicious circle, we need to ensure that more vulnerable children are entering school healthier and better prepared to study, that they complete their education and that they find good jobs – through their own work, knowledge and abilities. This is what the Social Inclusion Project aims for, this is what we are starting today in more than 30 municipalities – with another 30 municipalities joining soon - under your leadership and with your full commitment, Mr Minister, honorable mayors. I wholeheartedly wish that you will achieve the common goal - to improve life chances of vulnerable children –for their individual benefits as well as for the benefits of the whole society. Thank you.