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18 years later, in Romania

Victor Neagu's picture
Also available in: Română
 
Brasov University, Romania circa 1979

I first moved to Romania in 1998. It was a very different place back then. Stalls of CDs, clothing, pretzels (“covrigi”), and inexpensive electronic gadgets walled the sidewalks of a street that was the artery connecting my neighborhood with the more central parts of the north-eastern city of Iasi.

A sense of hardship was in the air. The city was grey. The collapse of the communist regime left many struggling for a better life in a new system that was striving for the rule of law, democracy and a free market economy.

As a 15-year old student back in those days, I was able to cross the border between Moldova and Romania with my school card. It had a glued color photo of me and my hand-written grades. One time, a border guard asked me if I was a good student. Modesty was not a choice if you wanted to cross the border, or so I felt at the time. He skipped through my grades, smiled and wished me a safe journey.

I moved back to Romania on February 1st of this year. This time as a 33-year old World Bank staff. It has been 18 years, but now I can call Romania home again.

Collaboration is key to food security in Central Asia

Polina Bogomolova's picture
Also available in: Русский


Central Asia is a fascinating region with a diverse natural environment and a rich food culture. A visitor to the region might be surprised, therefore, to discover that access to “sufficient, safe and nutritious food” on a daily basis can be challenging for many people.

A highly agrarian region, with over 40% of the population living in rural areas, Central Asia faces a number of food security challenges – shaped by both traditional and modern food practices. While undernourishment, mostly driven by traditional diet, remains a challenge in countries such as Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, obesity and over-weight attributed to recent welfare improvements and newly-opened access to a wide variety of non-traditional foodstuffs, have already become a concern in many countries of the region.
 

Investing in preparedness – the best protection against disaster

Laura Bailey's picture
If you are a parent in Armenia, what worries you more: getting a better education for your kids or ensuring their safety in school? For countries like Armenia – prone to disasters such as earthquakes, and with vulnerable housing and school building stock – this is not a rhetorical question! It’s a problem that parents seriously worry about and governments grapple with.
 
Armenia has always been vulnerable to earthquakes. The devastating Spitak tremor in 1988 took 25,000 lives, injured another 19,000 people, damaged half a million homes, and caused a US$15-20 billion loss to the country’s economy. More than two-thirds of that tragic human toll in 1988 was children – with most school-age children sitting in class when the quake struck.
 
While it is true that disasters generally occur unannounced, risks can nevertheless be managed in order to reduce the loss of lives, homes, infrastructure, and economic activity. But, governments have difficult choices to make: should they spend scarce investment resources on preparing for disasters, forgoing other top priorities, or should they hope for the best and deal with the consequences after disaster strikes?
 
In Armenia, we are now seeing a stronger recognition that natural hazards threaten the country’s development, and a shift to prioritizing disaster risk management. This move toward proactive disaster risk reduction has seen a wide range of stakeholders – communities, government agencies, donors – mobilize together. Disaster preparedness and risk management requires capacity, finance, knowledge, information and cooperation, and no government can succeed alone; it takes a strong partnership.

"Shaken, not stirred"

Joaquin Toro's picture
Also available in: Русский

Since October 29, 2015, Central Asia experienced fifteen earthquakes of moment magnitude 5.0 or greater, which on average amounts to an earthquake every 6 days.  Among these events are two notable ones that occurred on December 7th and 25th of 2015. The first earthquake was a 7.2 magnitude event in Murghob district of Tajikistan.

This was the largest earthquake in the country since the 1949 Khait earthquake and it brought widespread damage throughout the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, Tajikistan's largest province located in the Pamir mountains. Losses consisted of 2 fatalities caused by landslides,  multiple injuries, complete or partial destruction of over 650 houses and 15 schools and kindergartens, damages to several health centers and a small hydroelectric power station, and loss of livestock. Estimates suggest that 4,000 people have been displaced and over 124,000 were affected by the earthquake, leaving many people homeless over the harsh winter period.

Resolving minor disputes matters big-time for the poor

Georgia Harley's picture
So a man walks into a lawyer’s office looking for help with a minor dispute – one he’s sure he can win...
 
- "Can you tell me how much you charge?" he inquires.
- "Of course", the lawyer replies, "I charge $500 to answer 3 questions."
- "Don't you think that's a lot of money to answer just 3 questions?"
- "Yes it is!" answers the lawyer, "What's your third question?"

Charging up the Fourth Estate: Communicating about audit

Tako Kobakhidze's picture
I’m back in Kazbegi and writing a blog again - what a nice coincidence! Georgian mountains possess a certain magic: they can help you forget about the office routine, bring out your social side, and enable you to more freely express yourself. Clearly, it was a very smart decision by the State Audit Office of Georgia (SAOG) to choose a location near Mkinvartsveri Mountain for its two-day workshop for media representatives.

With a view to helping journalists – the so-called Fourth Estate – broaden their knowledge in the field of audit, the head of the SAOG together with his colleagues hosted 20 media professionals from leading Georgian outlets, including TV, print and digital – all vital channels of external communication, and essential for ensuring transparency and accountability.

 
 

Moldova: farewell 2015 and hello 2016

Alex Kremer's picture
Also available in: Русский | Română
Kids from Moldova

Let me explain why the World Bank is optimistic for Moldova.
 
Reason for optimism number 1. On the edge of the largest market in the world - the European Union - and with labour costs a tiny fraction of the EU average, Moldova could be a magnet for investment for the European consumer. Moldova's Free Economic Zones show how attractive the country can be to foreign investors when businesses are protected from corruption and hassles. The day that Moldovans get a clean economy, therefore, they will see explosive growth in such areas as light manufacturing, for example, and with that will come higher demand for labour and better wages. And faster economic growth will mean more money to pay for decent education, health care and pensions.
 
Reason for optimism number 2. Moldova has already weathered the worst of the economic shock caused by Russia's economic downturn and the 2015 drought. After a 2 percent decline in 2015, we predict that GDP growth will resume slowly in 2016 to 0.5 percent and accelerate to 4 percent in 2017.
 
Yes, of course one should not be delusional. 2015 was a tough year for the economy. There is no other word to describe a recession, a drought and a massive bank fraud for which generations of Moldovans will bear the burden. The bank fraud takes part of the blame for the fall of the leu, high interest rates and rising prices. World Bank employees are supposed to be guided by economics, not by emotions, but I cannot help feeling outrage that the ordinary Ion or Ioana will have to pay for the authorities' tolerance of fraud in the three banks.
 
But prosperity is within Moldova's reach. So, for 2016 let’s do the following...

‘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.

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