Dear Minister Cani,
Dear Minister Beqaj,
Representatives of Ministries of Finance and Health,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I am delighted to be here with you today at the signing ceremony of the Albanian Health System Improvement Project. Project signing is a moment of gratification as it is the culmination of a long preparation process and is the first step towards implementation and delivering results for the people of the country. However, today’s signing is of special significance for two reasons: it’s the first project being signed between the Government of Albania and the World Bank in 2015; and it’s the first project being signed in the presence of Mr. Patrizio Pagani, Executive Director in the World Bank Board, who is on his maiden visit to Albania.
I would like to thank Mr. Pagani for participating in this event and sharing this fruit of our partnership with Albania.
At the outset, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Minister of Health for his leadership in stewarding reforms in the health sector, and for his personal championship which enabled us to reach this stage. It is not often that we see the Minister of Health personally engaged and leading technical discussions. Thank you, Mr. Minister!
The World Bank is Albania’s longstanding partner. Our over two decades of engagement has included diverse sectors, including health, and with good results in many areas. We remain strongly committed to support Albania in its goal of accelerated and inclusive growth, which would contribute to reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity for the citizens of the country. As you may know, we are currently finalizing the World Bank Group’s new Country Partnership Framework for Albania which will define our next five year program of support.
One of the key areas under this upcoming new partnership framework is our enhanced support for Government reforms aimed at strengthening governance, equity and quality of public service delivery. We believe that this area complements and deepens the broader macro-economic and structural reforms being vigorously implemented by the Government. Improving delivery of public services is critically important. The project we are signing today is especially needed as health services touch each and every citizen’s life.
Improving access, equity and quality of public health services thus translates into bringing tangible improvements in the lives of each and every citizen. The encouraging news for Albania is that health outcomes, including life expectancy, are relatively high compared with neighboring countries.
However, quality of care requires significant improvements. This sector also faces governance concerns and is most associated with widespread informal payments. Public spending in health suffers from inefficiencies and inequities. Of particular concern is the weak protection of households against high out of pocket expenditures. Out of pocket payments are among the highest in the region, accounting for 55 percent of total expenditures on health.
We are highly encouraged by the government’s strong commitment towards undertaking much needed reforms in several key areas, including in health financing systems, hospital services, pharmaceuticals, and expanding health coverage. Efforts to improve health care service delivery and financing are already underway.
The project we signed today will support Government in its reform of the hospital sector, and the associated program to improve health financing as well as monitoring and management of services. It will also provide support to government efforts in improving equity and regional imbalances so that poor and the vulnerable are protected.
It gives me great pleasure that other development partners are joining efforts to support the sector including the Swiss Development Cooperation, the Austrian Cooperation, the Italian Cooperation and Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB).
On behalf of the World Bank I would like to acknowledge with huge appreciation the excellent cooperation and technical engagement of the team from the Ministry of Health, and to especially appreciate the team’s tireless preparation of this project. I also thank my team in the World Bank which supported this process with exceptional commitment, and brought expertise from various other parts of the world. I also must acknowledge the strong support of the Ministry of Finance and the continued guidance of the Minister of Finance.
I wish you a successful implementation of this important project.