Voices from Europe & Central Asia
Syndicate content

‘Tis the season to be anti-poverty

Elisabetta Capannelli's picture
Also available in: Română
World Bank Country Manager for Romania Elisabetta Capannelli and her
daughter, who was an orphan in Manilla before joining Capannelli's family.
Reeling from a long year of work and toil, December is the month we turn toward our families and friends with joy and gratitude.  December is a month of great generosity. Some of us have so much to give that we also look outside our families and think about those who are hungriest for warmth, joy and support. Here in Bucharest it is common to step-up our efforts and bid for charity. Initiatives to help children, including support for those in foster homes and orphanages, abound.
 
Romania’s recent history saw the country register very high rates of child abandonment. In the early ‘90s, Romania’s child protection relied on large institutions - which offered poor conditions to more than 100,000 children – and we know these children are some of the least fortunate members of society. Nowadays, Romania has not only halved the number of children in the child protection system but it is also promoting a major shift away from institutional care towards more individualized and efficient forms of care, such as extended family, foster families, and family-like homes.
 
Still, psychological strains and tragedies persist - even in this newer, more modern system. Recently, a 14 year old girl from a child protection center decided to take her life because she had been returned to the orphanage after living with a foster mother for 11 years. Her foster mother had fallen ill and the family could not manage to care for her and the other children at the same time. In her suicide note, she told her adoptive mother she loved her and that she couldn’t stand the fact that she was taken away.

For me, an adoptive mother of a now 23-year-old daughter who was abandoned at birth and that joined my family from an orphanage in Manila - first as a foster child and then as an adopted child - this story brings home many memories and a stark reminder that the agenda is still out there.

The physiological limits of life: Will humans one day live to the age of 150 years?

Johannes Koettl's picture

Looking at the past development of life expectancy, we can see a clear trend of considerable gains across all world regions since 1950. The question arises: Will this past trend continue forever, allowing future generations to live at some point to the age of 150 years and even beyond? Or is there some limit to increases in life expectancy—an upper bound which human kind won’t be able to cross?

Yes, there is a physiological limit to human life, but there is no absolute maximum age, which no human can ever cross. In biology, the concept of life span determines the age a species can reach under optimal circumstances. For humans, this life span stands at about 97 years. So 97 should, in principle, be the limit to human life expectancy. But there is a twist that gives us hope for more.

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.

Georgia: Law and services on gender-based violence are ahead of social attitudes

Rebecca Lacroix's picture
Vahan Abrahamyan / Shutterstock.comIt’s a serene place. Five women and their children currently reside at the domestic violence shelter.

They are escaping abusive husbands, parents, in-laws, or siblings. Their stay ranges from three months to a year, and apart from shelter and food, residents have access to a dedicated team of lawyers, counselors, social workers, and health care professionals. Perhaps more importantly, they encounter others who have also escaped violence and sought alternative lives for themselves.

These women are the lucky and courageous ones. Those who dared to make that phone call to seek help. Those who risked breaking the silence in spite of family, religious and community norms. Those who were listened to by the police, who had a ‘strong enough’ case to obtain official ‘victim’ status. This status ensured them a room in the shelter.

But the majority of women never call.

The unfinished business of pension reform in Moldova

Yuliya Smolyar's picture
Also available in: Русский | Română
Costesti village, central Moldova. Photo by Elena Prodan / World Bank

In the early to mid-1990s, the Moldovan Government often didn’t pay pensions on time – sometimes they were up to two years late. And, they were often paid in-kind. This situation was a syndrome of the trials and tribulations that the country was experiencing in its tumultuous transition to a market economy.
 
Reform of the pension system was initiated in the late ‘90s to try to fix some of the more pressing challenges by restoring fiscal balance and helping put payments on a sustainable track – essentially meaning that payments were now made in cash, rather than in galoshes or umbrellas.
 
Similar to Moldova’s protracted transition to a free market, however, the reform of the country’s pension system is largely a story of “unfinished business”. One important reason for this is that the 1998 pension reform envisaged a phased increase in the retirement age up to 65 years for both men and women, and clear linkages between salary contributions and pension payments. This aimed to motivate Moldovans to participate in the system, but after a few years of implementation, the gradual increase in retirement age was put on hold. And, because the retirement age didn’t increase, the planned increase in the value of pensions was put on hold too.

How to bring discussion about financial issues into the classroom

Ivor Beazley's picture
Also available in: Русский
The 2008 financial crisis was a “wake up” call to many teachers in the United States and Canada. As families lost their homes and parents lost jobs, they began to appreciate the importance of kids leaving school with some knowledge of the world of finance – especially about how personal decisions are made about finance and how financial decisions taken by government directly affect their lives and future prospects. 

A study group from Moscow and five regions of Russia recently visited Canada and the US to learn more about initiatives in those two countries and to bring discussion about financial issues into the classroom – with the idea of turning today’s students into active and responsible citizens of the future, able to make well-informed personal financial decisions and to engage in discussions about public finances on behalf of themselves and their communities.

What's next for Russia?

Donato De Rosa's picture
Also available in: Русский
Whereas everybody agrees that Russia would benefit from a more diversified economic structure to sustain higher growth rates and living standards, the question is how to achieve it.

In the previous decade the government opted for interventionist policies aiming to develop an industrial base and jumpstart a knowledge economy. More recently, as a reaction to declining oil prices and economic sanctions, the Anti-Crisis Plan launched by the Government in January 2015 fleshes out an active import substitution strategy to replace imports with domestic production. So far, 19 roadmaps have been adopted to promote import substitution in a number of priority sectors, including metallurgy, agriculture, machine-building, chemicals, light industry, as well as the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Why low oil prices are also bad news for the poor in Central Asia

Aurelien Kruse's picture
Also available in: Русский
Trade & remittancesThe conventional wisdom is that low world prices for oil only hurt rich exporting countries, while generating a windfall for poor net importer economies.

However, in Central Asia, the story is more complicated. This is because the region’s poorer countries, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, depend critically on Russia through trade and remittances.

Falling remittances, reflecting the weakness of the Russian Ruble

According to just-released Russian Central Bank data, outward remittances from Russia fell sharply in the first half of the year, in USD terms. In the first six months of 2015 (relative to the same time in 2014) private transfers from Russia to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are reported to have fallen by over 45% and 30% respectively. While less exposed, Uzbekistan has experienced a loss of even greater magnitude: -48%.

Belarus: Achieving high-income is not possible without completing the transition to a market economy

Ivailo Izvorski's picture
Also available in: Русский


Belarus is undergoing two transitions. The first is the transition to high income. This is a feat that has been accomplished by only about two dozen counties since the 1950s, half of which have done so during the last twenty-five years. The second is the transition to a market economy. Completing the first transition will be impossible without achieving the second one. And here is why...

Is Moldova on the road to energy sector viability?

Elina Kaarina Hokkanen's picture
Also available in: Русский | Română
Moldova Power Lines

The reliable and affordable supply of electricity and heating is an issue of major concern for Moldovan citizens, businesses and policy-makers. The viability and sustainability of the country’s energy sector rests on Moldova’s ability to diversify supply options and put in place the right tariff structures that would encourage investments in the energy sector. Currently, 98 percent of the energy resources consumed are imported, with over 80 percent of electricity and all natural gas coming from single sources.

To support the country’s energy sector development, the World Bank recently completed a study on electricity and heat tariffs in Moldova. The study shows the projected range of tariff increases, how much more different kinds of households would have to pay, how Ajutor Social program and the Heating Allowance could protect vulnerable people and how much those social payments would cost. 

Pages