Good morning everyone.
We are very pleased to start our day today with such a broad range of technical experts. It is my sincere pleasure to welcome representatives from government, from academia, from civil society organizations from 17 countries, and from donor agencies to this important learning event.
What brings us together in Warsaw these two days is an interest we share in finding better solutions to end extreme poverty and to achieve shared prosperity. The benefits of economic growth are well known. But growth is not always equally distributed among different groups of the population. A rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats.
Reforms that are clearly justified from a fiscal and macroeconomic point of view, might have negative impacts on the most vulnerable groups. Identifying and understanding these potential negative effects is important, also to help us to find good ways to mitigate them. This can only be achieved through a policy formulation process that is evidence-based, considers both positive and negative consequences, and includes an understanding of the incentives of the different stakeholders in the reform process. This is exactly what Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) is about.
Sometimes important reforms can have significant impacts on vulnerable groups making such reforms highly sensitive and unpopular. Protests, and even calls for governments to step down as a result of proposals to eliminate or reform subsidies, to increase retirement ages, or to consolidate schools, are not uncommon. It takes a strong political will, and a good understanding of the incentives of different stakeholders affected by a reform, for governments to truly own the reform process. For this reason, it is important to broaden the recommendations from PSIA work beyond technical solutions to include an emphasis on stakeholders, institutions and processes involved in the design and negotiations of policy reform.
Our partnership on PSIA in Europe and Central Asia goes back to the early 2000s. In those early days the analysis relied heavily on quantitative methods, often focusing on utility reforms. This has evolved over time and PSIAs now cover many sectors and topics, including education, health, justice, labor, social protection, forestry, and social inclusion. PSIAs now often incorporate social, institutional and political economy analysis, with focus on incentives of stakeholders.
The partnerships on PSIA have received a big push from the support of five donor countries—Norway, Germany, The Netherlands, UK and Switzerland—resulting in the establishment of the PSIA MDTF in 2010. The MDTF has funded 64 grants in 21 countries in Europe and Central Asia, and more than 230 grants in over 80 countries around the world.
There are many good examples of PSIA work across Europe and Central Asia. Here in Poland, for instance, a number of important energy efficiency reforms have been spearheaded by the government. To strengthen the case for these reforms, a PSIA supported the Government in designing pro-poor energy efficiency reforms in the residential sector. This PSIA facilitated a dialogue between policy experts, civil society, think-tanks, local and regional government, to help address constraints for low-income households and elderly people.
Another PSIA, launched recently, assesses the impacts of recent changes in Polish legislation on the promotion of employment and labor market institutions, with a focus on the most vulnerable and socially excluded groups. Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, this PSIA undertakes an institutional mapping and analysis of gaps in the access and delivery of social services at the local and regional levels. This work is expected to enhance the capacity of Government and civil society to inform policy development and implementation, and improve the delivery of social services.
Another example, this time from Moldova, is a PSIA on the impacts and risks involved in the school consolidation process. Data was initially collected on 66 thousand students in eight southern regions of Moldova, which were to be the most affected by school closures. The recommendations derived from the analysis were adopted by Government to implement the consolidation process. Given the richness and usefulness of the information produced by this exercise, led the Ministry of Education to develop a student-level Education Management Information System (EMIS).
You will hear many more examples during these two days.
Once again, and on behalf of the World Bank, I am very happy to welcome you in Warsaw. This event is an opportunity to celebrate our meaningful and productive partnerships on PSIA. Maybe most importantly, this event will facilitate sharing each other’s experiences and lesons learned along the way. We aim to take these partnerships to the next level by planting the seeds of a network of PSIA practitioners in Europe and Central Asia. We believe that knowledge exchange and partnerships across sectors and stakeholders with different affiliations, perspectives and experiences, is particularly fruitful. We, at the World Bank, learn so much from our partners in Poland, and we like to facilitate two-way knowledge sharing among our client countries, including topics close to our heart.
We wish you a pleasant event and look forward to working with you all.
It is my pleasure to introduce our first speaker of this event, Malgorzata Sarzalska, who is Director of the Department of Economic Analysis and Forecasts in the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy in Poland.