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Europe and Central Asia

Thinking Twice Before Having Children in Poland

The first thirty minutes of Elzbieta’s day are the most precious.
 
Between five and five-thirty in the morning is the only time she gets to herself, which she uses to work out, or read a book. After that, the grind of everyday life in Poland’s countryside takes over. She cooks, washes, cleans, irons, and cooks for her seven children, aged two to fifteen. And it doesn’t stop until late at night.
 
Elzbieta’s family and other families with multiple children are rather unique in Poland, which has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. When asked why they didn’t have children in a recent country-wide survey, 71 percent of Poles said unstable employment and difficulties in balancing work and family life were big factors.
 
Their fears are not without reason -- with each child, the risk of poverty increases tremendously -- families with three or more children are more likely to be in the lowest income group, with 26.6 percent of households with four children living in poverty in Poland, according to the Main Statistical Office.
 
Even buying clothes for children is a daunting task, in such cases. “We have started participating in lotteries organized by local clothes stores, with no luck so far,” Elzbieta said. “We do it because taxes for children’s clothes and shoes were recently raised, and families like ours are most affected. Families with children are just not given a chance.”
 
Elzbieta talked to me as she picked flowers in a nearby field, while watching her five-year old daughter. The flowers she collected would later be dried on a bench outside her rural home and used for making herbal teas for the family. Even buying tea is a financial challenge for Elzbieta’s family, whose income, a total of PLN 3,280 (about $1,100) comes from social assistance for children, including a disabled child (PLN 2,000) and her husband’s income – after the payment of a home renovation loan – of PLN1, 280.
 
The Face of Poverty in Europe and Central Asia

 
But hospitality is not to be spared.

The Importance of Sour Cherries in Serbia

Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi's picture
“What a shame you cannot be here in two weeks,” our driver said, as we entered Toplica District in Southern Serbia, the poorest part of the country. It is an open countryside of rolling hills, with thick forests on the horizon. Next to the road, neat rows of bushes and low trees appear, dotted with red.

Sour cherries.

“In two weeks, everything will be red,” he said. “And what do you do with all these cherries?” I asked, half dreaming of one of my mother’s best tarts. 

Export to Russia, came the reply. A river of sour cherries flowing from this small corner of Serbia, across Europe and into Russia is a less interesting image than my mother’s spectacular tart, but in a country where signs of the ongoing economic crisis abound, this is good news.

Every field we looked at had new plantings alongside more established trees. A new parasite is apparently threatening these cherry orchards, and foreign experts are working with local growers to control it. Still, it seems clear that people are investing in the business, and this means jobs – though only temporary, tough and lasting long hours of cherry picking, these jobs are a blessing for those who have little else to rely on.

Ivan and his wife Daniela, in the village of Vlahovo, are a case in point - and the face of poverty in the region.
 
The Face of Poverty in Europe and Central Asia

Poverty Drives Daily Choices in the Kyrgyz Republic

There is nothing worse than having to wonder if you will be able to afford tomorrow's meal. Or the day after's.

But for millions of poor in the Kyrgyz Republic, it is routine - and their every day reality. The World Bank interviewed several families in the country recently to showcase the real face of poverty in the region, where the poor spend significantly more to stay warm and buy enough food to survive than in other parts of the world because of the region's extremely long and cold winters.

Watch the full documentary on poverty in Europe and Central Asia here.

Dreaming about a better future in Armenia

The World Bank recently interviewed several families in Armenia to depict the hardships people face when they cannot earn more than $5 a day per person. The country faces long, harsh winters and paying to stay warm and eat enough to survive the cold can quickly eat into the poor's meager incomes.

The Face of Poverty package aims to show how tough life can be for these families and their belief that education is the singular way out of poverty for their children.

Watch the full documentary here.

The Long-Stalled World Economy Shifts into Gear

Jim Yong Kim's picture



The global economy is finally emerging from the financial crisis. Worldwide, growth came in at an estimated 2.4 percent in 2013, and is expected to rise to 3.2 percent this year. This improvement is due in no small part to better performance by high-income countries. Advanced economies are expected to record 1.3 percent growth for the year just finished, and then expand by 2.2 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, developing countries will likely grow by 5.3 percent this year, an increase from estimated growth of 4.8 percent in 2013.

The world economy can be seen as a two-engine plane that was flying for close to six years on one engine: the developing world. Finally, another engine – high-income countries – has gone from stalled to shifting into gear. This turnaround, detailed in the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects 2014 launched last Tuesday, means that developing countries no longer serve as the main engine driving the world economy. While the boom days of the mid-2000s may have passed, growth in the emerging world remains well above historical averages.

High-income countries continue to face significant challenges, but the outlook has brightened. Several advanced economies still have large deficits, but a number of them have adopted long-term strategies to bring them under control without choking off growth.

Completely Booked Out in Astana

Shynar Jetpissova's picture
Also available in: Русский

If you love books as much as I do, perhaps you too cherish the sensation of holding a new book in your hands for the first time. Or the way your nose twitches when dust lifts off the pages of an old paperback you just discovered on a bookstore shelf. Books are real treasures – they appeal to many different senses and can create memories that stay with us from childhood.
 
Today, more and more books take a very different form to when I was a kid. The Internet now provides us access to a vast electronic library where billions of books are available digitally rather than in the old-fashioned paper form. But there are many of us who still prefer the real thing. With this in mind, my colleagues and I at the World Bank office in Astana, Kazakhstan, held a book donation on the threshold of the New Year at the National Academic Library - one of the four depositary libraries in different regions of Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and Pavlodar) back in 2005 as an effective channel for sharing of knowledge and information.


 
For the event, we brought a ton of World Bank publications from the country office, inviting people to walk in and take any books that appealed to them. It took just one hour to clear the shelves! As people selected multiple books from the shelves, I asked, “Are you really going to read all of those books?” Their responses surprised me pleasantly.

Long Live The Internal Market! (But How Competitive is the EU?)

Matija Laco's picture
A vibrant private sector - with firms investing, creating jobs, and improving productivity - is absolutely essential for promoting growth and expanding opportunities. In order to support the private sector, however, governments need to step in and remove obstacles to growth and job creation. Although macroeconomic stability and sustainability are unquestionably necessary for spurring business activity, the quality of the business regulation also matters.
Collectively, the 10 indicators in Doing Business 2014 are a great tool for assessing the ease of doing business in countries and measuring the quality of their regulations.

The results can be surprising for some countries in the European Union (EU): Would you ever consider that the most difficult country to start a business in the EU is Austria? That Italy is the worst place to pay taxes? That one of the top countries in protecting investors is Slovenia? Or that Poland is the global runner-up in providing information about credit?

Boosting Budget Transparency in Moldova

Victor Neagu's picture
Also available in: Русский

BudgetStories.md
Did you know that funding Moldova’s Parliament costs each citizen on average $2 per year - the country spends double the share of its public budget for the cost of its Legislature when compared to Finland, Lithuania or Ireland. Or that the cost of passing a law in Moldova in 2012 was twice what it cost in 2011? These are just some of the many interesting facts I recently learned about my country through an Open Data initiative.

Budget Stories is an Open Data initiative which originated as a grassroots idea among the “think-tank” community in Moldova and has quickly developed into a popular and useful online tool for citizens, primarily by digesting raw budget execution numbers and presenting them as visually-engaging infographics.

What Policies Will Allow Russia Achieve Environmentally Sustainable Growth?

Adriana Jordanova Damianova's picture

The Russian Federation’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is an event of exceptional importance.  On many levels, there are concerns that the environment in Russia will  be negatively affected by trade liberalization.   A growing body of research looking at economic and physical linkages between trade, environment and development shows that  these linkages are often complex and interdependent. 
 
Scientists have implicated that from an economic perspective, trade liberalization and environment are related because most economic output is  based on input from the environment, including the energy for processing them, and waste released to environment.  However, the effect of trade liberalization  on the environment would vary depending on  sector, country policies, markets, technologies and management systems. Changes in environmental quality as a result of potential expansion of “dirty industries” (e.g., ferrous and non- ferrous metals, chemicals) could be mitigated by effective and transparent enforcement mechanisms.  Russia’s economic gains from trade liberalization are estimated at  about $49 billion annually.  For these gains to be environmentally sustainable, it will be crucial to implement complementary “do-no-harm” policies tailored to address environmental concerns. This  will be pivotal in  sustaining the sources of gains from WTO accession in the long run.
 
So how does trade liberalization affect environmental quality?

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