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What happens if you don’t pay your bill? Lessons from Central and Eastern Europe

Georgia Harley's picture


We all have regular bills to pay for the ubiquitous services we consume – whether they be for utilities (water, heating, electricity etc.), credit cards, memberships, or car payments.  But, not everyone pays.  

So why don’t people pay?  Why are some countries better at this than others?  And what can be done to improve systems for debt collection?

A mixed report: How Europe and Central Asian Countries performed in PISA

Cristian Aedo's picture
 Aigul Eshtaeva / World Bank
While more ECA program countries are participating in the PISA assessment of 15-year-old students' skills, education poverty in these countries has only slightly declined since 2000. (Photo: Aigul Eshtaeva / World Bank)

Recently, the OECD released the results for PISA 2015, an international assessment that measures the skills of 15-year-old students in applying their knowledge of science, reading, and mathematics to real-life problems. There is a sense of urgency to ensure that students have solid skills amidst modest economic growth and long-term demographic decline in Europe and Central Asia (ECA).

Economic marginalization of minorities: Do laws provide the needed protections?

Elaine R.E. Panter's picture

Never in recent history has anti-minorities rhetoric — anti-immigrants, anti-religious-minorities, anti-LGBTI — been so pronounced in so many countries around the world. Those groups, we are told, are the cause of our current economic crisis because they steal our jobs, fuel criminality and threaten our traditional way of living. And yet, the causes of our economic crisis are probably more nuanced, and initial research seems to suggest that more and not less social inclusion will help us overcome the instability of our times.

The exclusion of minorities from the labor force is becoming politically and economically unsustainable for many states that are struggling to retain their legitimacy and strengthen their competitive potential in an increasingly global marketplace. As a consequence, governments, international development agencies and academic institutions are now looking seriously at ways to develop policies that guarantee a more equal and sustainable form of economic development — development that addresses both short- and  long-term economic goals.

The World Bank’s Equality Project attempts to address this problem. The idea driving the project is that institutional measures that hamper the access of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities to the labor market and financial systems (such as legal and policy restrictions, or the absence of appropriate, positive nondiscrimination actions) directly affect their economic performance and, as a consequence, represent a cost for the economy: If a sizeable percentage of the population is not given the opportunity to acquire a high-quality education, a good job, secure housing, access to services, equal representation in decision-making institutions and protection from violence, human capital will be wasted, income inequality will grow and social unrest will ensue. The World Bank’s widely cited Inclusion Matters report puts it succinctly: “Social inclusion matters because exclusion is too costly. These costs are social, economic and political, and are often interrelated.”

The project collected and validated data on the legal framework of six pilot countries: Bulgaria, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Tanzania and Vietnam. The methodological approach of collecting cross-country comparable data according to key indicators yielded some general but interesting results, published in a research working paper in March 2017.

Why we need to talk about Roma inclusion

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

The Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority group, and arguably the most discriminated-against one. Despite efforts to promote Roma inclusion over the last decades—including from the European Union institutions, governments, development organizations, and civil society organizations—a large share of the Roma remain poor, and have inadequate access to basic services.

The economic benefits of LGBTI inclusion

Georgia Harley's picture
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is an all too familiar story. Members of this community are frequent targets of violence and other human rights abuses, and often face prejudice and hardship at work, in their communities, and at home.

Action is needed to address these problems and ensure that everyone – regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity - has an equal chance to live a healthy and prosperous life
This is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense: a growing body of evidence indicates that discrimination against LGBTI people has a negative economic impact on society.

Don’t sweat the small stuff – lessons from European courts

Georgia Harley's picture

Last year, we posted a blog – Resolving Minor Disputes Matters Big Time for the Poor – which highlighted how courts can fast-track minor disputes to deliver faster, cheaper and more appropriate justice and how – for the poor and for micro and small businesses – this may be their only path to justice. 

Increasingly, citizens and businesses demand fast-tracking services for small cases and, according to Doing Business data, 138 economies have a small claims procedure of some kind. So courts across the world are eager to learn how to roll out such reforms – either to introduce a fast track procedure or to improve on an existing one.

To reinvigorate Europe, we need more integration… of services

Doerte Doemeland's picture


To reinvigorate growth in Europe, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi called for more common projects in the European Union (EU). And he emphasized that these efforts need to meet a set of minimum bars: they should “…focus on those actions that deliver tangible and immediately recognisable results… [they] should complement the actions of governments; they should be clearly linked to people’s immediate concerns; they should unequivocally concern matters of European or global significance.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Court budgeting – ways to improve performance and do more with less

Georgia Harley's picture


The European Summer is over. We’ve traded our sunscreen for spreadsheets and it’s budget time. Across Europe, Ministries of Justice, Courts, and Judicial Councils are preparing their budget plans for the upcoming year. With fiscal constraint still the order of the day, staff in these offices are sharpening their scalpels, trying to figure out how to do more with less.

So in the spirit of sharing, here is a Top 10 list of how to improve court performance without spending more money.

Improving opportunities for Europe’s Roma children will pay off

Mariam Sherman's picture
Roma child, Romania. Photo by Jutta Benzenberg

Eight years on from the start of the global economic crisis, close to one quarter of the European Union’s population remains at risk of poverty or social exclusion. But one group in particular stands out: Europe’s growing and marginalized Roma population.

The equivalent figure for Roma children stands at 85 percent in Central and Southeastern Europe. Living conditions of marginalized Roma in this region are often more akin to those in least developed countries than what we expect in Europe.

A fresh look at the global financial crisis and poverty trends in the EU

Doerte Doemeland's picture


When development practitioners such as ourselves think of poverty, the EU is not what comes to mind first. While it is true that average incomes are higher in Europe than in most regions of the world, it is also true that the 2008 global financial crisis had a huge impact on the welfare of the most vulnerable in many countries in the region.


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