Your Excellency Prime Minister Plenković,
Your Excellency Minister Marić,
Your Excellencies Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers,
Your Excellencies former Ministers of Finance,
Dear Representative of Madame President,
Dear Panelists/ Distinguished Guests / Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you all for joining us today for the celebration of the 25 years of Partnership between the Republic of Croatia and the World Bank Group. It has been a memorable, and an emotional event.
Looking back, we can all agree that our partnership has deepened over the past years. We have expanded our array of products, moved to more sophisticated financial instruments, leveraged grant resources, engaged multiple stakeholders, and provided advice on such a diverse number of sectors. Our projects have reached beneficiaries in each corner of Croatia.
As the Vice President had mentioned in his introduction, the World Bank Group presence in Croatia has been both important and impactful.
Our work would not have been possible without the engagement of the Croatian Government and all the stakeholders, many here today, with whom we have been working over the years.
I had the opportunity to travel across Croatia in my previous job at the World Bank, focusing on infrastructure before EU accession, and extensively over the last year during the broad process of consultation we have undertaken for the preparation of our new five years engagement strategy.
It was heartwarming to hear how many people remembered how some of the World Bank project touched their lives. They even remembered names of colleagues long gone from the country. Some asked why have we been so silent about our program, and possibly too busy focusing in Zagreb.
I also heard demands for being closer to the people, listening more, bringing new solutions to some of the hard challenges of development Croatia and its regions face, and continuing to be around to work with them for impact and to transform the country.
This brings us to our future partnership and specifically to the five years Country Partnership Strategy which we will start implementing soon. This strategy aims to help Croatia’s efforts to achieve higher growth rates and faster real convergence with the living standards of countries in the European Union. This should happen in a sustainable, equitable and inclusive manners. We intend to invest in people and support the transformation of institutions for the benefits of everyone, particularly the most vulnerable.
Not all may have appetite for major changes in Croatia, but I believe that the time to support the private sector, as the key driver of growth, create new opportunities in the job market, foster innovation and entrepreneurship, and build a stronger economy is now.
I would like to close by thanking all officials and staff in national, regional and local governments that have worked with us over the past 25 years, especially our counterparts in the Ministry of Finance, and in other key ministries, parliamentarians, the staff of our Project management units, the private sector, civil society, representatives of marginalized and groups, of youth, women, and Roma groups, academia, the international community and institutions, and all other stakeholders across the country for their partnership with the World Bank Group. Thank you to the World Bank staff, current and retirees.
To all from me and from all Bank’s colleagues who have worked to make this partnership, and this event successful, a big THANK YOU.
I look forward continuing our successful partnership in the years to come.