Europe and Central Asia
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?
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.
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?
Tim Richards, Mine Manager of the Amulsar Gold Mine explains the mine
lay-out to Chris Sheldon, Sector Manager of Mining at the World Bank.
Until recently, Armenia was not only landlocked, but also policy locked: a restrictive aviation policy limited options and increased prices for passengers and cargo coming in to or leaving Armenia’s Zvartnots airport outside of Yerevan, the capital. The government had granted exclusive rights to a private, Armenian-owned airline, Armavia, for ten years starting in 2003, and therefore restricted competition from foreign airlines. So, even a regular holiday sometimes started with a long road trip to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi to connect with cheaper flights there.
The World Bank Group got the go-ahead on a new strategy aimed at repositioning itself to better tackle its two goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. The strategy aims to more efficiently and effectively leverage finances, technology, and talent to provide customized development solutions for client countries. In a communiqué at the close of the Annual Meetings, the Development Committee said it “strongly endorsed” the plan. The committee said the Bank Group has an important role to play “in delivering global development results, supporting countries with their specific development challenges, and helping them eradicate poverty and build resilience to future financial, economic, social, and environmental challenges.” Read the communiqué and article.
A new paper updated the Development Committee on the gender equality agenda at the World Bank Group. In the past year, all of the Bank’s country assistance strategies were “gender-informed,” and the total share of gender-informed lending rose from 83% to 98% between FY12 and FY13. This translates into a dollar figure of almost $31 billion, notes the paper.
Nearly three years ago, a large delegation was pulling in front of a newly-renovated kindergarten building in the village of Cucuruzeni, Moldova to unveil a long-awaited addition for its 2,000 inhabitants. Newly planted flowers and the fresh smell of paint constantly reminded me that this was more than just a World Bank-financed project -- it marked the beginning of better education for children of the community.
Two weeks ago, as I was driving north of Moldova’s capital Chisinau, our driver veered off on an unpaved eight kilometer stretch of road. The dusty, bumpy ride would take me back to Cucuruzeni, after three years.
My anticipation did not go unrewarded. The building was spotless. I stopped in front of a dozen smiling, and curious three- and four-year-olds, excited to see visitors. Three years ago, this would have been out of the ordinary for me. Now, as the father of a 2.5-year-old son, I am in a kindergarten five times a week. This visit, however, was special.
A recent regional study that focused on Roma and non-Roma in nearby communities from five Eastern European countries finds between 28 and 45 percent of Roma children attend preschool in four of the five study countries. However, the Roma preschool rate jumps to 76 percent in Hungary, where targeted policies have been in place; and this is about the average for non-Roma preschool rates across the five countries. Hungary’s experience offers promise because surveys show that preschool matters greatly to completing secondary school and staying off social assistance.
The debate over how to ensure good health services for all while assuring affordability is nothing new.
However, it has recently acquired new impetus under the guise of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Discussions around UHC are contentious and as Tim Evans recently pointed out, “a lot of the discussion gets stuck on whether financing of the system will be through government revenue, through taxes, or through contributions to insurance.”
I landed in Chisinau on a short flight from Frankfurt a mere two years ago. I immediately liked this vibrant and cosmopolitan city built with white limestone and awash with greenery, and remember thinking that it has the potential to attract scores of tourists. But tickets to fly into Chisinau were expensive in 2011.
I also recall so vividly my first trip through the Moldovan countryside shortly after. An amalgam of bright green leaves on walnut trees contrasted the yellow of the sunflowers that grow in fields with some of the most fertile soil in the world. I was immediately struck by the immense potential that Moldova holds in agriculture.
Good things have happened since then.