A math classroom in Frumusani, Romania, where half of the students are Roma. It’s critically important for all countries to invest in education in order to stay competitive in the global economy. That means education for all, including communities such as the Roma that have long faced discrimination.
10th May 2013, Bucharest – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim concluded a two-day visit to Romania, praising the country for its inclusive growth over the past two decades. He called on leaders to continue building a more competitive economy that benefits all parts of society, including the poorest.
The visit – his first to Romania — was an opportunity for Kim to build on the World Bank Group’s two decade-long partnership with Romania. Kim pledged the support of the World Bank in helping to develop and implement a clear and innovative vision for inclusive growth and shared prosperity in Romania.
During his visit, Kim met with Romanian officials, students, civil society, and Roma representatives.
“I am extremely pleased to be in Romania to celebrate the country’s successes in economic growth during the last 20 years,” Kim said. “Looking ahead, Romania faces many critical challenges. As Romania strives for sustainable growth and to catch up with many of the EU countries on living standards, productivity, and competitiveness, the challenge will be to manage change, which is always difficult. In practice, this means building a more competitive, faster growing, and inclusive economy that benefits all the people of Romania.”
Kim also noted that the World Bank Group has been a strategic adviser to the Government in implementing the important reform agenda in Romania prior to and following EU accession. He offered the Bank’s continued support to the government on politically difficult reforms, which are needed to sustain growth and shared prosperity. In particular, he noted support for improvements in public administration and continuing and deepening reforms in health and education, where the World Bank is working closely with the Romanian authorities. Kim also discussed the World Bank’s forthcoming strategy for Romania that will cover the 2014-2018 period and will determine the Bank Group’s further engagement and contribution to the economic and social development of Romania.
Kim also met with Roma students from Romania, Bulgaria, FYR of Macedonia, Hungary, and Slovakia. He heard firsthand of the efforts to address the large gap in educational outcomes between the Roma and non-Roma in Europe, and the views of these young Roma on what it will take to improve overall living standards for this marginalized and vulnerable group, and empower them to become change agents in their own communities.
Kim and Mr George Soros visited the Roma community in Frumușani, Călărași county. During the visit, Kim talked to members of the community and heard about projects financed by the Government of Romania, the Roma Education Fund and the World Bank.
“The Bank stands ready to strengthen its collaboration with the other international partners in helping to address the needs of Roma people,” said Kim. “We need to provide adequate support to ensure inclusive growth and shared prosperity. The Roma people’s needs are huge in health, employment, education, and housing, but the benefits are huge as well for all of Romania.”
Kim made the following remarks …despite good progress achieved by the government; Romania remains the country with the highest poverty levels in the European Union. More than 30 percent of the population lives on less than $5 per day. I would like to draw attention to those who live on so little, including the Roma population here in Romania and elsewhere in Europe. I believe that it is a moral imperative for all governments to put in place safety nets for the poorest and to invest in the education and health care of those most in need. There is a humanitarian argument to do this, but there is also an economic argument as well. If those most in need can be lifted out of poverty, we all succeed – we improve the work force, which attracts businesses, which creates jobs. And if Romania continues to educate the poorest, train them for jobs, and provide quality health care, it will be a model for the world.
The government is rightly focusing now on developing a new growth agenda. In practice, this means building a more competitive, faster growing, and inclusive economy that shares its prosperity with all of the people of Romania. We believe achieving this vision will require deeper structural reforms in many sectors of the economy and public administration. We also believe the government will also have to hold the course on fiscal consolidation, which will require a firm resolve to build on the gains made so far.
To ensure that growth continues to benefit the poor, we believe that Romania should maintain flexible labor markets, which will facilitate the movement from low to high productivity jobs, and will upgrade the skills of its labor force. Establishing a simpler business environment will allow entrepreneurs to create jobs and add value to the economy. But adequate social protection will also be needed for the most vulnerable.
As Romania strives for sustainable growth and to catch up with many of the EU countries on living standards, productivity, and competitiveness, the challenge will be to manage change, which is always difficult.
In this effort, I would like to reaffirm the Bank’s readiness to continue to partner with the Government of Romania on the goal of inclusive growth and shared prosperity.