In Moldova: Better Targeting for Better Results

August 20, 2015

Cristina Tacu has a big job. A regular day at work for Cristina and her colleagues means seeing 20 to 30 clients at the local social assistance office in the rural Hîncești District. Their work consists of guiding people and families through the tasks and forms they need in order to receive financial help from the government. 

But there’s a new twist to Moldova’s social safety net. With support from the World Bank, Moldova has overhauled its social assistance programs and now people get help according to their income levels, and not simply if they fall into a certain pre-set category.

In the past, if someone qualified as simply elderly or disabled they would get a certain payment from the state. Now those payments are based on income.

Nowadays, Cristina and her colleagues assess and register the unique needs of an individual or family. That’s a monumental change for both the government and citizens who have come to rely - some say too much - on the state to keep them afloat.

This targeted social aid budgeting helps people like Veronica Tofan.  Veronica uses almost everything from her monthly cash benefit for food and clothes for her family. But she’s determined to help herself climb out of poverty. So she set up three small greenhouses to earn some extra money. She grows cucumbers and tomatoes to sell at market.

“We built these greenhouses, where we grow vegetables, because we want to make our own money,” Veronica says. “My children are growing up: we need more money to buy food, clothes, and to finish the construction of our house.”  

Farmers and agricultural workers like the Tofans account for 40% of Moldova’s poor.  Moldova’s aim is to better reach people like the Tofans and to better spend its social assistance funds. To that end, the country’s policy reforms have worked to integrate the overall social safety net into the platform provided by the targeted Ajutor Social - or social aid program.

" My children are growing up: we need more money to buy food, clothes, and to finish the construction of our house. "

Veronica Tofan



Vironica Tofan manages three small greenhouses to earn extra money and keep her family afloat. 

Over the past two years, Moldova has launched a new online management information system. That’s cut down on the use of paper and paperwork and it has streamlined and condensed the application forms people have to fill out. 

As a result, between 2010 and 2014, the turn-around time for Ajutor Social application processing fell from 30 to 11 days. The government also reduced fraud and errors in the process by creating the Social Inspection unit, cutting losses by 29%.

“It is a welcome measure in terms of transparency, budgeting, and governmental commitments,” says Ruxanda Glavan, the Minister of Labor, Social Protection and Family. “It is based on income and the whole concept of it is to help people get into the system and then provide them with the tools to help them get out of the system and find employment.”

This kind of targeted program is part of a wider challenge to cut the expensive and haphazard social assistance system Moldova inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

To ensure efficiency and eliminate fraud in the system, the World Bank has also helped create a national database of social assistance programs. Part of that work consists of training social workers and buying computers to make the change from paper to digital information, which, in turn, makes the system function more cheaply and efficiently.

Experts say Moldova’s Ajutor Social program now demonstrates that it can accurately and efficiently identify, and help, the genuinely needy. The program continues to be one of the most important programs to promote social inclusion and combat poverty in the country.

Best of all, officials say, is when people use the program as support while they start their own businesses or find new work - so that, like the Tofans, they can help themselves by giving their children an education and by getting out of the system and on their own feet.


The Mocanu family’s grandmother Elena (centered) would like to help provide a better future for her grandchildren. 

Number of days it takes to process an 'Ajutor Social' application - down from 30 in 2010