Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests and Partners of the World Bank Group,
It is great to be back in Bucharest again and to be here to celebrate our longstanding partnership with Romania that spans more than 30 years.
And what a remarkable period it has been! In less than a generation, Romania has built a modern society, consolidated democracy, and is moving in the direction of a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
Imagine, in 1990, Romania had only a couple of public television channels. Now, it has one of the fastest and cheapest internet connections in the world and the country’s young talent is attracting some of the biggest players in the information technology sector.
The World Bank is proud to have accompanied Romania along this impressive journey.
Our partnership with Romania actually extends back to 1972 when Romania became a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Our very first project supported the construction of a Fertilizer Plant at Tecuci in 1974. It was soon followed by more investment projects in agriculture and energy.
However, today we are marking and celebrating three decades of partnership. This is when the World Bank Group opened its office in Romania and embarked on a partnership with significant local presence and also deepened our collaboration with both the public and private sectors in Romania.
Working closely with the Government, we have focused our efforts on helping Romania achieve key development goals such as reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Concurrently, the International Finance Corporation – our sister organization focusing on the private sector - opened its operations in Romania to improve investment opportunities and help Romania’s private sector grow.
Since then, at the World Bank, we have invested over US$13 billion in more than 70 projects across key sectors such as health, education, urban, environment, water supply, transport, energy and agriculture.
And IFC has invested approximately US$4.6bn, in over 120 projects. Each decade of our support has been marked distinct milestones:
- In the 1990s we helped Romania stabilize its economy and transition from a centralized to a market economy.
- In the 2000s we were proud to play a significant role in supporting Romania’s accession to the European Union.
- And over the last decade, World Bank support in key sectors of the economy has set the stage for Romania’s structural reform program and contributed to meeting many of the standards and norms of the European Union.
More recently, the focus of our work has shifted towards helping the Romanian public administration become more effective and better equipped to deliver high-quality public services to all citizens, particularly the poor and vulnerable.
Helping the Government in advancing social inclusion, including Roma communities to have equal access to opportunities, is an area that we care deeply about.
We are pleased that our program in Romania has led to strong results and innovations that are now being replicated in other countries across the globe.
For example, lessons learned from the implementation of the EU Floods Directive in Romania are considered a good practice in the EU and are also informing the design for flood risk management approaches in Brazil. This is development knowledge sharing at its best with Romania leading the way.
The past two years have been particularly challenging, with crisis after crisis.
The World Bank partnered with Romania during the global challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rapid World Bank support helped to provide medical equipment and supplies, as well as investment in IT equipment and training that supported vulnerable students and underperforming schools during the long and difficult period of distance learning.
And, another example that also demonstrates why preparedness matters, the Government of Romania was able to activate substantial financing under the Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Loan, which was in place well before the pandemic hit, to help prevent and respond to such unforeseen shocks. This support strengthened health services, minimized losses to both the public and private sectors, and helped to safeguard lives and livelihoods.
Most recently, we provided large financing to support Romania’s stepped-up role as a transit and host country to displaced Ukrainians as they fled the terrible war raging in their country.
This support also supports Romania’s commitment to structural reforms that will help growth and fiscal management.
As Romania looks to build on its tremendous growth from the last three decades with a view toward achieving a fiscally sustainable and inclusive economic model, the country needs to continue to reduce poverty, which still remains among the highest in the EU.
At the same time, inequalities between the poor and marginalized in rural communities and the prosperity of urban centers – a major challenge that we refer to as “The Tale of Two Romanias” also needs to be addressed.
We look forward to this tale having a Happy Ending.
The Government of Romania has been steadfast in committing to changing people’s lives for the better and this momentum is continuing.
Successfully completing critical reforms is a winning strategy for this.
The World Bank is proud to have walked this path with Romania for these past 30 years and we look forward to working side by side in the years to come to bring greater growth and prosperity to all Romanian people.
I thank you for your partnership.
Anna Bjerde is World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia.