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Speeches & Transcripts October 31, 2018

Opening Remarks by Country Director for Western Balkans Linda Van Gelder at 25th Anniversary of World Bank in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Excellencies, Ambassadors,

Distinguished Guests,

It is a pleasure to welcome all of you to our event, marking 25 years of World Bank Group’s partnership and presence in this beautiful country.

I would like to start by thanking Minister Tevdovski for being here with us today and for organizing the regional conference on Growth through Human Capital Development in the Western Balkans this morning. 

It is an honor to celebrate 25 years of partnership together with all the friends and partners present here tonight.

An anniversary like this is the opportunity to put into perspective the World Bank Group’s contributions in the country in the last 25 years and, at the same time, to look forward about how to continue to help build a more prosperous economy that offers opportunities for all.

The Economic Recovery Loan of USD 80 million was the first operation financed by the World Bank in the country, following its membership in the World Bank group on December 30, 1993. This first operation – and indeed the initial phase of the partnership with the World Bank Group -  was focused on supporting macroeconomic stabilization, building institutions for the market economy and maintaining key social programs during the period of transition. phase led the way for much needed economic recovery and laid the foundation for a strategic partnership that we are celebrating here today.   The first operations of our private sector development agency, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) supported the upgrading of Teteks textile company facilities and the modernization of the former Grand Hotel, to operate as a franchise of Holiday Inn hotels.

Over the following 25 years the World Bank provided over US$2 billion worth of financial support through more than 65 projects, including investments in energy, roads, agriculture, health, education, social policy, innovation, skills and other areas that are crucial for country’s growth and development.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, concentrating on the private sector, supported the improvements in investment climate and provided around $400 million in investments in 19 projects in the financial sector, energy, telecoms, pharmaceuticals, textiles, retail, manufacturing and automotive industry.

 I would like to mention just few of the achievements of our partnership:

  • Through the Municipal Services Improvement Project - more than 524 thousand people were provided with access to regular solid waste collection;
  • Hundreds of kilometers of the country’s regional and local roads – including their signs and markings - have been renewed. As a result, roads have become safer and inter-country travel less time-consuming.
  • Approximately 20,000 students – whose parents receive social assistance - have benefited from the World Bank supported cash transfer project and regularly attended schools due to this program
  • Through Skills Development and Innovation support project, we supported the development of a Fund for Innovation and Technological Development that is stimulating innovation activity in the private sector. The Fund has so far awarded 55 grants for the start ups and commercialization of innovative products and processes.

The next milestone in our longstanding relationship will be the new Country Partnership Framework for the next 4 years, which is being developed in partnership with country authorities. Its strategic objective is to help provide its citizens greater opportunities for a better life. It will support country’s development priorities and take into account the three development pathways identified by our Systematic Country Diagnostic analysis.

  • The first is to foster a more dynamic and competitive private sector, that creates more and more-productive jobs.
  • The second is to invest in people to build a competitive and adaptive labor force, by improving education and health outcomes.
  • The third is promote sustainability and resilience, through effective governance, fiscal prudence, and enhanced environmental and climate change management.

We hope a positive resolution of the name issue will help the country energize the European Union (EU) accession process and enable it to become more deeply integrated with regional and global markets. We remain committed to work with the authorities and all the partners who are here today to support the country’s aspirations and provide Macedonians – particularly the most marginalized - with greater opportunities for the future.  

I would once again like to thank you for coming today to mark this milestone in our strong partnership with FYR Macedonia. We look forward continuing working together with all of you.

Please enjoy the evening with the interesting exhibition of the National Gallery.

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