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PublicationBulgaria - Reforming the regime of states fees(World Bank, 2009-06-01) World BankThe Government of Bulgaria requested the World Bank to analyze the legal, institutional and administrative framework for setting state fees and provide recommendations based on good international practice. How big is the problem compared to the many other issues the government wants to reform in order to improve the business climate in Bulgaria? So far there are no comprehensive studies of the level of administrative fees in the European Union (EU) area. Such studies would be of great value to assess the magnitude of the problem. There are, however, several arguments in support of reforming the regime of state fees in Bulgaria now. Firstly, business associations in Bulgaria agree also confirmed by a recent unpublished government report - that state fees at the central level became an uncontrolled area in which authorities apply their own judgment and interests without considering the impact on businesses often to the disadvantage of the private sector. Secondly, if the Government of Bulgaria (GoB) does not curb the current regime system, then the trend of increasing state fees will continue or might even gain speed. Again, this will have a negative impact on the cost of doing business. Thirdly, a number of identified state fees are so high that they seriously harm competition by functioning as a barrier to firm entry. Fourthly, the EU requires Member States to implement a specific regime for administrative fees in the services sector by the end of 2009 and Bulgaria does not comply with that yet. A recent World Bank report for Bulgaria Investment Climate Assessment (2008) called for overall reduction of the administrative cost for businesses because Bulgaria is not competitive in this area compared to other Central and Eastern European countries. The report recommended that a strategic policy document is prepared to embrace the administration practice and provide an instrument for classification of the tariffs for the central administration service fees targeting universal reduction of the administrative cost. It also proposed that a special methodology for the classification of the tariffs for the central administrative service fees is developed. The present report is intended to support reform of the regime of state fees. PublicationRomania - Poverty Monitoring Analytical and Advisory Assistance Program : Are the Most Vulnerable Protected?(Washington, DC, 2008-06) World BankThe rapid economic growth since 2000 has been the main driver of poverty reduction in Romania. However, even under the current positive growth scenario, there are still people who live in poverty, and some who are unlikely to benefit from future growth and thus may continue to be left behind. For these people an effective redistributive social policy and targeted interventions are needed. The purpose of this note is to assist the Ministry of Labor, Family and Equal Opportunities (MLFEO) to analyze and monitor the effectiveness of the main social safety net benefits to fight social exclusion and reduce poverty. To determine the extent to which social transfers offer protection to the poorest groups of the population, the paper uses the last available (2004-2006) rounds of the household budget survey data. The analysis presented here uses the consumption aggregate and the absolute poverty definition presented in the 2003 and 2007 poverty assessments. Three main indicators are used to assess the effectiveness of social protection (SP) programs: coverage (share of population covered by the programs), targeting (share of funds directed to each welfare group of population), and adequacy of benefit (share of the benefit in the consumption of beneficiaries). The paper begins with a review of the main findings, followed by an overview of the social protection system and its overall effectiveness. Then it assesses the main social assistance programs, and concludes with a review of key issues. PublicationCroatia - Living Standards Assessment : Volume 1, Promoting Social Inclusion and Regional Equity(Washington, DC, 2006-11) World BankThe Croatian economy has performed moderately well in the past decade, enabling a gradual narrowing of the income gap with the European Union (EU). Using a cost-of-basic-needs poverty line, poverty in Croatia is found to be low, with only a small proportion of the poor facing hard-core deprivation. Looking ahead, the task of faster external income convergence with the EU will be challenging, and will require both faster job creation as well as flexibility in the allocation of jobs and workers in the economy. These will also help with more rapid improvement in living conditions in lagging regions. To these ends, the report highlights three sets of interrelated policy challenges and priorities: (1) sustaining high rates of growth to permit continued income convergence with Europe; (2) promoting greater labor mobility, including measures aimed at building human capital to improve workers' opportunities; and (3) improving the adequacy and effectiveness of social safety nets within a responsible fiscal framework. In examining regional disparities, several development indicators show that regional disparities in living conditions are significant (though on average no higher than in EU countries), and only partially explained by human capital and other such individual attributes. Building on local comparative advantages offers the best way forward to improve living conditions in lagging regions. PublicationRussia : Reducing Poverty through Growth and Social Policy Reform(Washington, DC, 2005-02) World BankThe report is based on analysis of the main facets and dynamics of poverty in Russia since 1997. The analysis was conducted over the past two years by Russian and international experts in the framework of the first stage of the program on "enhancing the measurement, monitoring, and analysis of poverty". This report is however, not a Poverty Reduction Strategy - rather this report draws on the analysis of a much larger dataset, making its results far better suited for formulating poverty reduction policies. Thus recommendations are more of a sketchy roadmap of pillars of a poverty reduction strategy than a specific and detailed action plan. Following an overview of the report's main findings, Part I examines the nature of poverty, both nationally and regionally, to identify the groups with a high poverty risk. Part II examines the growth-poverty linkages through the labor market, as well as the contribution of growth and inequality to the recent poverty reduction. It also explores the expected impact of accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on overall growth and poverty. Part III examines the scope for improving social policy, in ways that will have a direct impact on the poor: the safety net, the housing and communal sector, and the education and health sectors. The final chapter of the report addresses improved monitoring of poverty outcomes, on the basis of the Household Budget Survey. PublicationGender and Economic Opportunities in Poland : Has Transition Left Women Behind?(Washington, DC, 2004-03-15) World BankThe study addresses the most significant disparities in women's and men's access to economic opportunities and discusses the roots of inequalities in their socioeconomic and political contexts. In light of recent changes to the Polish Labor Code that were introduced to promote equal rights for women and men on the labor market, the authors have attempted to answer the question of legal discrimination regarding women and men in the labor market, the social insurance and family benefits system, and in the work and retirement benefits systems. Chapter 2 describes the roots of gender stereotypes and their impacts; chapter 3 describes the employment structure in Poland, taking into account gender differences; chapter 4 concentrates on the growth dynamics of self-employment among women and men in the transition period, and the characteristics of the Polish businesswomen; chapter 5 raises the question of the limits faced by women in their professional careers; chapter 6 shows to extent to which the retirement system in Poland reflects the difference between the status of women and men in the labor market and shows the roots of the lower status of professional women. Finally, chapter 7 shows how the status of women in rural areas is determined by the role that is attributed to them in the family, in the society, and in the traditional division of labor. The report concludes by providing a number of policy recommendations that may prove to be important instruments in eliminating gender disparities and building poverty reduction strategies. PublicationLithuania : Issues in Municipal Finance(Washington, DC, 2002-05-16) World BankSince the establishment of Lithuania's independence, the country achieved substantial progress in transforming its local governments into independent units of Government: structural reforms to prod intergovernmental relations were made in 1994 and 1997, and will continue in 2002. Nevertheless, several issues remain, requiring particular attention from the Government. First, revenue and expenditure assignment between levels of government, and the degree of central regulation over local finance, needs to be reviewed. Local governments face fiscal constraints, for revenues are centrally collected, and distributed at centrally determined rates. And, although local governments have nominal authority over their expenditures, major items (salaries and welfare payments) are subject to Government control, resulting in local governments being faced with running arrears, or borrowing from the Government or private lenders. Although high per capita jurisdictions are required to share revenues with poorer counterparts, it is not clear that distribution mechanisms actually allocate revenues as needed. Upcoming reforms are likely to change this, but a greater change in the revenue distribution criteria, would be by funding delegated functions, but distributing according to sector-specific indicators of need, as well as budgeting financial availability. Second, financing capital investment may be improved by a greater fiscal autonomy to local governments, and mostly, by improving the quality of financial information, with reforms that include the separation of current, and capital accounts, and the adoption of accrual accounting for expenditures. PublicationRomania : Local Social Services Delivery Study, Volume 1. Summary Report(Washington, DC, 2002-01-16) World BankThe study seeks to identify institutional, and procedural factors which may facilitate, or hamper the effectiveness of social services, and inter-governmental fiscal arrangements. Based on existing research on decentralization, the success of decentralized service delivery depends on factors, that include the quality of intergovernmental institutions, a stable fiscal framework, and a well established civil society, and social structure. The study focuses on public social services, where local governments play the greatest role, and, throughout the report, the greatest emphasis is on social assistance benefits, and services, addressing those cash benefits which are delivered, and financed by local governments, including national programs such as birth grants, emergency assistance, and the main poverty alleviation program. In education, the study focuses on compulsory, and secondary education, though it does not address specialized secondary education, which is under the purview of central ministries. The study comprises two volumes: volume 1 provides an overview of the issues, summarizes major findings, and presents policy options; volume 2 includes the detailed discussion, and analysis, and presents the empirical underpinnings of the report. The study finds that fiscal decentralization of poverty alleviation benefits, has undermined its effectiveness, and eroded social safety nets; thus the government is preparing the Minimum Income Guarantee Program Law to centralize financing of social assistance cash benefits. And, education seems to be the policy area with greatest potential for further decentralization, suggesting a careful capacity evaluation to decide whether to attain complete autonomy. PublicationRomania : Local Social Services Delivery Study, Volume 2. Main Report(Washington, DC, 2002-01-16) World BankThe study seeks to identify institutional, and procedural factors which may facilitate, or hamper the effectiveness of social services, and inter-governmental fiscal arrangements. Based on existing research on decentralization, the success of decentralized service delivery depends on factors, that include the quality of intergovernmental institutions, a stable fiscal framework, and a well established civil society, and social structure. The study focuses on public social services, where local governments play the greatest role, and, throughout the report, the greatest emphasis is on social assistance benefits, and services, addressing those cash benefits which are delivered, and financed by local governments, including national programs such as birth grants, emergency assistance, and the main poverty alleviation program. In education, the study focuses on compulsory, and secondary education, though it does not address specialized secondary education, which is under the purview of central ministries. The study comprises two volumes: volume 1 provides an overview of the issues, summarizes major findings, and presents policy options; volume 2 includes the detailed discussion, and analysis, and presents the empirical underpinnings of the report. The study finds that fiscal decentralization of poverty alleviation benefits, has undermined its effectiveness, and eroded social safety nets; thus the government is preparing the Minimum Income Guarantee Program Law to centralize financing of social assistance cash benefits. And, education seems to be the policy area with greatest potential for further decentralization, suggesting a careful capacity evaluation to decide whether to attain complete autonomy. PublicationArmenia : Growth Challenges and Government Policies, Volume 1. Main Conclusions and Recommendations(Washington, DC, 2001-11-30) World BankThis report reviews growth trends in Armenia for the period 1994-2000, outlines major weaknesses of existing development patterns, and suggests a package of policy recommendations designed to accelerate enterprise restructuring, attract investment, and encourage the creation of new businesses in the medium term (three to five years). Such steps are needed to systain (and preferably to increase) the current growth rates, to stop emigration among the young and skilled, and to reduce poverty. The government needs to focus much more clearly on generating the environment for private sector led growth by removing bottlenecks in policies, infrastructure, and institutions that prevent new private businesses from flourishing. International aid donors can help by supporting the removal of administrative barriers for investments, the rehabilitation of infrastructure, and the creation of "restructuring agencies" that will enable firms in key sectors to overcome or avoid common constraints to business growth in Armenia. Successful restructuring by such firms should have a demonstration effect on the country's economy and help consolidate public support for moving forward the program of reform begun a decade ago. PublicationSlovak Republic : Living Standards, Employment, and Labor Market Study(Washington, DC, 2001-08-09) World BankBy most indicators the Slovak Republic has achieved a high level of human and social development. Despite the country's generally high living standards and overall level of development, there are families in Slovakia whose living conditions are below what is considered to be socially acceptable. By societal standards, these families and individuals are poor. The objective of this study is to analyze this poverty, so as to help design measures and policies to reduce it. The study also seeks to understand the phenomenon of unemployment--the main cause of poverty--and propose actions to alleviate it. The report is organized as follows: After Chapter 1, which explains the background of poverty and inequality in the Slovak Republic, Chapter 2 addresses the challenge of generating employment, including rising unemployment and inactivity, job reallocation during transition, the importance of the regional and skills mismatch, and conclusions and policy recommendations that enhance employment creation. Chapter 3 explores the role of the safety net system, particularly unemployment insurance and other forms of social assistance; presents a brief simulation analysis of the disincentives provided by unemployment insurance, social assistance, and social support; provides an empirical analysis of disincentive effects; and ends with a discussion of the policy implications. Chapter 4 focuses on the poverty and welfare of the Roma population. Finally Chapter 5 telescopes regional disparities.