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It is a crisp winter morning and from my office window I can see the city outside. It appears black and white. White because of buildings made from limestone – which came from old mines now replaced by wine cellars. Black because of trees and their shadows across snow-covered streets, parks, and squares. But that is just the view from my window.
The city is Chisinau, capital of Moldova, and my new home for the past six months.
“Nothing is black or white in Moldova,” said a friend of mine when I first arrived here. I am now beginning to understand what he meant.
“This is the poorest country in Europe.” Yes, that’s what they say. But everywhere I go, I see another side to Moldova – the fortitude of its people, its rich cultural heritage, its warmth and hospitality.
“Young people are leaving Moldova. Nobody is left.” Yet I am reminded of the students whom I met recently at two Moldovan universities. They were so full of zest and impressed me with their talent, their curiosity and their burning desire to see Moldova transform into a prosperous country.
“Children in Moldova lack access to quality education.” Yet, how can we not be proud of our contribution to making the gymnasium in Filipeni village, among other 20 schools, accessible for hundreds of kids with special needs?
“Moldova is very vulnerable to climate shocks, but not much is done to build up resilience.” Yet the country’s Emergency Command Center, which has been operational for 18 months, has been critical in helping coordinate response efforts to several recent severe weather events.
“Moldova’s growth relies on remittances. Businesses are closing or relocating to neighboring countries.” Yet, three out of four private enterprises that I visited recently are run by Moldovans who earned some money abroad, came back home to open their businesses, and now employ people from their communities and produce goods that are exported elsewhere.
I agree that Moldova is not black or white. Indeed, I think it is bright and colorful – as colorful as the landscapes painted by local artists such as Gavrilitsa, Tsarna, and Leu. As lively as the traditional music performed by the Lautarii orchestra. As striking as the pan flute tune by Constantin Moscovici that greets you on arrival at Chisinau airport. As flavorsome as the sarmales made by my colleagues for the Christmas Charity Bazaar. And as sophisticated as a bottle of Moldova’s famous wine.
Can Moldova provide a much brighter future for its citizens? Yes, of course, but not without action. Not without bolder steps by the authorities to fight corruption and reform the justice sector. Not without implementation of laws that should do more than look good on paper. Not without education and labor market systems that provide Moldovans with the relevant skills to acquire good jobs. Not without better healthcare. And not without greater access to quality services by all citizens.
I could go on. There is much to do, and it will not be easy. It will require a lot of courage, dedication and hard work – not to mention compromise. But it is doable, and Moldova’s partners such as the World Bank are ready and willing to help.
I am really looking forward to spring! I will go for a stroll in Chisinau’s central park to see the 25 trees planted by our team last November to celebrate 25 years of partnership between Moldova and the World Bank Group.
On this wintery day, snow still covers the trees and the city appears black and white. But the snow is melting fast in Moldova...