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Reforming fiscal rules and boosting investment to avoid the ‘new normal’ in Europe

Ivailo Izvorski's picture
Photo by Brookings.eduThe European Union (EU) has settled into a “new normal” of mediocre growth, with real GDP set to expand by about 2 percent in 2015 and in 2016. With sizeable unemployment and still not full capacity utilization, this weak pace of expansion is a clear reminder that there is a more profound and longer-term crisis in Europe than the economic and financial turmoil of 2007-08, the recession in 2012, and the challenges of the southern cone that required large International Monetary Fund programs.

Few of the challenges that have plagued Europe this century have been resolved. Government spending and debt are up, yet potential growth is weak. Fixed investment has declined substantially to lows not seen in decades. Medium-term risks are elevated, but with fiscal space greatly reduced and with monetary policy in unconventional territory, policymakers have precious little ammunition to tackle any future shocks.

Promoting equity in education to prepare for a greying Europe

Christian Bodewig's picture
PISA measures the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics and science.
Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank 

Investing in people starts by ensuring that graduates leave school with strong basic/foundational skills, such as in reading and mathematics. Such skills are critical for subsequent study, for quickly finding a first job, and for adapting to continuous technological change. But are countries in the EU ready to face that challenge?

Getting the water sector in the Western Balkans ready for EU membership

Angelika Heider's picture
The Vodovod Slavonski Brod, an
​EU-financed wastewater treatment plant in Croatia.
Photo credit: World Bank Croatia

​It would be my first time in Croatia, so naturally I was excited to be part of the team that organized a Danube Water Program workshop on EU Cross Support in the Water Sector in Zagreb September 28-29.

Initially, the reasons behind the World Bank’s support of this workshop aimed at facilitating the alignment of national water legislations with the European Union (EU) acquis were not obvious to me. Given, however, that almost all of the countries covered under the Danube Water Program find themselves somewhere on the path towards EU membership or candidacy, it made sense for some of them to convene.

And who could possibly be more suitable to host such an event than the EU’s youngest member state, Croatia?​

So at the end of September, in a small and – despite the suits rather informal setting at the local World Bank office, around 20 people from several line ministries and water works gathered in a conference room (with a great view of a somewhat rainy Zagreb) for a two-day event. Representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia came together to discuss potential issues and hurdles that they might encounter in the transposition of EU water laws into their national legal frameworks.​

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Valerie Lorena's picture

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A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth. 
 
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties. 
 
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.

Return Migration and Re-Integration into Croatia and Kosovo (Roundtable, May 11-12, 2015 -- Zagreb/Croatia)

Hanspeter Wyss's picture
The goal of KNOMAD’s roundtable Return Migration and Re-integration into Croatia and Kosovo was to probe the hypothesis that return migration and homeland reintegration promote development through the transfer of enhanced human and social capital that migrants commonly acquire in their host society integration.

From Imitating to Innovating

Marcin Piatkowski's picture

Time to Change Gears for Poland’s Economy

Poland is Europe’s growth champion. It has more than doubled its GDP per capita since the beginning of post-socialist transition in 1989, consistently growing since 1992, and was the only EU economy to avoid a recession in 2009. Poland is a prime example of the success of the European “convergence machine”. In 2014, the level of income adjusted for purchasing parity exceeded $24,000 and reached almost 65% of the level of income in the euro zone, the highest absolute and relative level since 1500 A.D.
 
However, past successes do not guarantee a prosperous future and Poland cannot afford to grow complacent. Given the significant productivity gap—Poland’s productivity per hour amounts to less than half of that in Germany —technology absorption will continue to drive private sector productivity in the near term, but it is unlikely to help sustain—not to mention accelerate—economic growth in the long term as Poland moves closer to the technology frontier. Investment in private sector R&D and innovation will have to increase far more rapidly. Growth can stagnate if Poland doesn’t start shifting from imitating others to generating new ideas, from quantity to quality, and from potato chips to microchips.

Managing EU Funds – What We Can Learn from Slovenia

Maya V. Gusarova's picture
Effective management of European Union (EU) funds is not only high on the agenda of the new EU member states but also of the Western Balkan countries that are progressing in the EU integration process. As such, these countries face several important challenges and questions today.

On becoming an EU member, how much will the budget calendar and its preparation need to change? How best to plan and execute projects which are pre-financed? How to record unspent EU funds in the next fiscal year? To what extent should the Ministry of Finance be involved in the process before the signing of financial agreements with the EU? These and other questions arise in relation to the impact on a country’s fiscal position, co-financing obligations, pre-financings and bridging resources, and payment of errors.

Managing EU Funds – What We Can Learn from Slovenia

Maya V. Gusarova's picture
Effective management of European Union (EU) funds is not only high on the agenda of the new EU member states but also of the Western Balkan countries that are progressing in the EU integration process. As such, these countries face several important challenges and questions today.

On becoming an EU member, how much will the budget calendar and its preparation need to change? How best to plan and execute projects which are pre-financed? How to record unspent EU funds in the next fiscal year? To what extent should the Ministry of Finance be involved in the process before the signing of financial agreements with the EU? These and other questions arise in relation to the impact on a country’s fiscal position, co-financing obligations, pre-financings and bridging resources, and payment of errors.

The Best School for Entrepreneurship is on the Job, Not in the Classroom

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

This has been a very engaging debate and I want to thank Omar as well as the organizers and contributors. In this concluding statement, I’d like to highlight both those areas where we agree and those where we still end up with different perspectives.

We can agree on the following:
 

Skills Gaps and Jobs Strategies

Omar Arias's picture
Working at a call center in Romania The blog I posted to debate with my Bank colleague Wolfgang Fengler the chicken-and-egg question of which comes first, skills or jobs, generated a rich exchange and contributions. While the question was framed around tackling the problem of unemployment in the Western Balkan countries, it naturally applies to almost any country. I want to thank all of those who took the time to write, whether or not they agreed with my main thesis: that countries should invest and strive to develop the basic skills that lay the foundation for the technical or job-specific skills that should be in turn acquired a la par with the changing needs of labor markets.
 

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