Sanitation in Bulgaria
Situated on the west coast of the Black Sea, Bulgaria has continually struggled to secure basic services for its people. An improvement came when Bulgaria entered the European Union in 2007. Amid this positive step, however, it became clear that Bulgaria’s wastewater treatment and sanitation system was below E.U. standards. The latest situational analysis on equal access to water sanitation in Bulgaria shows that there are 10 significant areas for improvement. Bulgaria must address these issues in order to ensure pure water and high-quality sanitation to the entire country. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Bulgaria.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bulgaria

  1. The water and sanitation network in Bulgaria is decades old. Iskar is the largest reservoir in Bulgaria. Located near the country’s capital, Sofia, it collects about 675 million cubic meters of water. Built in 1954, it is one of the oldest reservoirs. Bulgaria built most of its water network between the 50s and the late 80s. In 1990, however, the political regime changed from communism to democracy and the new government abandoned all infrastructure projects. As a result, one-third of Bulgarians suddenly lacked a reliable water supply and sewage network.
  2. Bulgaria does not recycle its wastewater. Even though two-thirds of the Bulgarian population has access to a wastewater network, only 57 percent possess access to a wastewater treatment plant. This means that large amounts of household water do not receive treatment and households reuse it. In other words, Bulgaria does not engage in the recycling of wastewater. This is not the case in other European countries such as Germany, Belgium and Spain, where recycled water goes towards agriculture, groundwater recharge and ecological enhancement.
  3. Bulgaria’s water supply pipes contain asbestos-cement. The World Bank reports that Bulgaria’s existing water network is extremely outdated. On average, water supply pipes in Bulgaria are 36 years old and most comprise of asbestos-cement. The majority of developed countries have discontinued the use of asbestos in building materials, due to its cancer-causing properties. Several developing countries, however, continue to use asbestos-containing materials. Moreover, Bulgaria’s non-revenue water rate—water that is produced and then lost or unaccounted for before it reaches the desired target— is close to 60 percent, resulting in an even more unstable water supply network.
  4. People suffer from water rationing. As a result of outdated water networks, lack of strategic wastewater collection and expenditure in treatment systems, a significant number of people suffer from seasonal water rationing and lack of sanitation. The people in the North-East regions of Bulgaria suffer the most. They experience frequent water rationing throughout the year and high prices of water supply and sanitation. Additionally, 37 percent of the population does not have access to wastewater treatment. Furthermore, 24 percent of the population lives in areas with no wastewater collection systems at all. These staggering statistics require significant funding to ensure that water quality and sanitation services comply with the requirements of the E.U. directives.
  5. Most Bulgarians in rural areas do not have access to sanitation. According to the National Statistical Institute, 25 percent of Bulgarians, the majority of whom live in rural areas, do not have access to sanitation. These areas spread to 81 percent of the country’s territory and 39 percent (as of 2014) of the population, meaning that most of these regions also lack adequate sewage disposal. The Special Accession Program for Agricultural and Rural Development (SAPARD), the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) and the Operational program for rural development funded centralized sewerage systems in a number of rural areas. While considered a positive step, the funding ultimately only benefited villages with municipal centers.
  6. Roma communities suffer the most from the lack of proper sanitation. Bulgaria’s compliance with the E.U. standards proved a difficult task in 2007 and, unfortunately, this challenge still continues today. The overall lack of balance between living conditions in rural and urban areas, as well as a lack of public policies regarding living conditions, enhance the challenge. For example, Bulgaria does not possess a national policy for addressing illegal neighborhoods (ghettos). These mostly Roma-populated neighborhoods do not possess access to centralized sewerage systems, water treatment plants 0r wastewater tanks. The National Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria on Roma Inclusion (2012-2020), a document that Bulgaria implemented from 2012 to 2020, seeks to improve the quality of life of vulnerable groups and promote their full inclusion in society. While the document grants Roma families access to public social housing, the measure falls short of solving the problem in its entirety. It ultimately leaves more than 400,000 people in Roma ghettos.
  7. Masterplans for water and sanitation services are corrupt. A situational analysis on equal access to water and sanitation in Bulgaria states that: “Financial mechanisms have been subject to significant trade in influence and corruption, so the investments have achieved very low efficiency.” Experts from the Earth Forever Foundation made a comparative analysis of the validity of the data used in the masterplans for sustainable water and sanitation services in three villages in Central Bulgaria. The analysis revealed that the regional plans provide inadequate wastewater removal. Furthermore, the regional plans utilize treatment measures that not only fail to comply with legislation but also stubbornly remain unaffordable for the general population.
  8. Bulgaria and the World Bank are collaborating to solve water supply and sanitation problems. To tackle these problem areas, the government voted on a new ambitious plan regarding the water supply and sanitation issues. In 2016, the Bulgarian government and the World Bank worked together on the Country Partnership Framework for Bulgaria. The document focuses on the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of essential public service delivery, including improved water supply and sanitation.
  9. Approximately 99 percent of Bulgarians have access to a clean water supply. Thanks to the collaborative efforts, Bulgaria now shows significant improvements. According to the latest report from the Ministry of Regional Development, centralized water supply now spans 99 percent of Bulgaria. At present, a centralized water supply covers 5,000 towns and villages. Currently, only two areas do not receive full coverage from the central water supply. In response to those two areas, the government has created a strategy to cover the needs of the outstanding 1 percent. A new law, part of the next strategic plan (2024-2033), seeks to further improve the country’s sanitation network.
  10. Bulgarian schools teach clean water supply and sanitation. To educate the new generations, Regulation No. 13 of 21.09.2016 on Civil, Health, Environmental and Intercultural Education included new topics in Bulgarian public school curriculum. Subjects added include healthy lifestyles, water usage and conservation, waste/water waste management and composting. Designed to help students recognize the importance of nature conservation, these subjects focus on water pollution reduction, clean water preservation and recycling.

Over the last 13 years, Bulgaria has exhibited slow, yet promising progress towards achieving the U.N. goals for universal access to water and sanitation. The country continues to strive to comply with the E.U. standards for clean water supplies and wastewater treatment. The new challenge for Bulgaria is to establish baseline measures for the fairness of access to water and sanitation through the Equitable Access Score-Card, a process of self-assessment. This self-assessment focuses on “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all” and “access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations” by 2030.

Olga Uzunova
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SwedenHomelessness is an issue that plagued Sweden for a long time. Well known for its national welfare system, the Swedish government provides a large safety net for its citizens to fall back on if they ever fall ill or lose their job. The Swedish government provides universal healthcare, family support and financial support for the elderly and retired. All Swedes, regardless of need, could call upon the government to receive the benefits provided by the Swedish welfare system. However, this doesn’t mean that the Swedish welfare completely shelters its residents from homelessness. What is causing homelessness in Sweden? Who are the homeless people in the famous welfare state? What is being done to alleviate this issue?

Defining Homelessness

Because numerous factors can cause homelessness, every country has a different definition of homelessness. In Sweden, a person is homeless if they are in:

  1. acute homelessness.
  2. an institution and not having any housing prior to release, or in an institution even though they should have been released because they lack their own housing.
  3. long-term living arrangements organized by Social Services.
  4. in private short-term living arrangements.

This certainly is a broad definition to determine if someone is homeless. However, even with this broad definition, counting the exact number of homeless people in Sweden is a challenge. In Sweden’s 2011 survey, for example, there were 34,000 homeless people. Around 4,500 people were classed as being in an acute situation, which means that they were on the streets or in homeless shelters. However, some homeless organizations estimate that the total number could be higher. Stockholms Stadsmission, a Swedish homeless charity, pointed out that the data only presented 370 E.U. migrants. The organization claims that the survey’s estimate of these E.U. migrants is too low.

Causes of Homelessness

People fall into homelessness in Sweden for multiple reasons such as breaking up with a significant other, escaping domestic abuse or suffering from mental illness. However, the lack of affordable housing seems to be one of the main causes of homelessness in Sweden. The housing prices in Sweden, especially in Stockholm, have increased homelessness significantly. Sweden’s steadily growing population, which reached 10,183,175 people in 2018, is definitely affecting the ever-rising housing price. While an industry expert suggests that Sweden is building more homes to meet the rising demand for housing, these housings are often not affordable due to the cost of materials, land and labor.

The ones who are most affected by this rising housing prices are the marginalized and vulnerable members of society. Furthermore, Sweden’s welfare system is attracting an increasing number of immigrants into the country, which puts a strain on the system.  While many migrants to Sweden are financially stable, there are groups of migrants who are not as fortunate. There are marginalized groups of E.U. migrants who fall into homelessness in Sweden.

Amnesty International’s 2018 report on the Romani population in Sweden found that there is a sizable population of Romani and other E.U migrants who are suffering from homelessness in Sweden. Romani, in particular, are marginalized more than other races in the entirety of Europe. In Sweden, the report suggests that many Romani people suffer from prejudice and lack of access to basic amenities such as water, shelter and healthcare. Lacking heated shelter, for example, is dangerous for the homeless since night temperature in Sweden usually falls below freezing. One homeless man described in an interview for the report that he had to wander around the streets to keep himself from freezing to death after being kicked out of a bus station at 2 am.

Measures Being Taken to Help

Some people aim to alleviate homelessness in Sweden. The Swedish government, for its part, is taking measures to alleviate the current issue. Stockholms Stadmission, for example, opened the first food bank in Stockholm. Human rights activists in Sweden are also calling for multiple reforms to alleviate the homelessness in Sweden. Since the highest cost of land, workers and materials to build new housing is negatively affecting the lives of the homeless in Sweden, human rights activists are calling for rental, tax and land reforms. Swedish politicians are responding to this call. Recently, the Swedish government introduced measures to encourage housing turnovers and subsidies to encourage the construction of more affordable housing.

Homelessness in Sweden is a complicated issue. The rising demand and price of housing are putting pressure on Sweden’s steadily increasing population. While Sweden’s broad definition of a person’s homelessness might broaden the number of people who can receive assistance, the task of counting the exact number of homeless people in Sweden is still challenging. Many EU migrants, the Romani people in particular, still face the danger that homelessness in Sweden brings. The Swedish government and charity organizations are taking measures to address this issue both on the local and governmental levels. While a long road still lies ahead for the homeless of Sweden, many hope that a better life is coming for them.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Uzbekistan’s Economic TransformationAlthough the poverty rate in Uzbekistan is only 14 percent, the standard of living and GDP per capita are low. The government of Uzbekistan has partnered with the World Bank to undertake a massive economic transformation. It hopes to develop its economy, spur investment and improve livelihoods. The government is improving infrastructure efficiency and social services to achieve high-middle-income status for its residents by 2030. This is a part of the development strategy called Uzbekistan Vision 2030. The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Asian Development Bank and the European Union have worked cooperatively to facilitate Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Massive World Bank Loan

The World Bank has worked with Uzbekistan since 1992 and funded more than 20 projects, totaling $3.6 billion. The bank recently approved a $500 million loan to stimulate private sector growth and job creation. Uzbekistan’s transformation into a successful market economy will ultimately result in a higher quality of life for its citizens. Currently, Uzbekistan’s GDP per capita stands at $6,900, almost one order of magnitude lower than the United States’ GDP per capita of $54,541. Uzbekistan believes that poverty levels will shrink as a direct result of developing its private sector economy and boosting GDP per capita.

Cyril Muller, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said that the loan will “boost growth, promote transparency and accountability and improve services for citizens.” In 2018 and 2019, Uzbekistan reduced trade and investment barriers, decreased strict business regulations, loosened its currency and opened markets to spur investment and boost imports and exports. These recent changes to its economic policy show Uzbekistan’s commitment to loosening its controls on prices, production and foreign investment.

Livestock Sector Receives Support

The European Union and the World Bank jointly funded a five-year project in 2019 aimed at developing Uzbekistan’s livestock sector. More than $150 million will go towards addressing supply chain problems such as low productivity, substandard animal health services, financial constraints on research institutions and poor access to markets for smallholder farmers. The Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjayev, said that this project aims to increase the efficiency of the livestock sector by increasing the number of small farmers participating in commercial value chains, improving productivity and ensuring the sustainability of incomes.

The project will also support credit lines for farmers and other workers in the livestock industry. The agriculture industry employs about a quarter of the population. Livestock is an important agricultural product in Uzbekistan. About 90 percent of “livestock production relies on small farm holdings” and about 4.7 million smallholders depend on livestock for a living.

Energy Sector Boosts Agribusiness

“More than 126,000 MWh of electricity and 50 million cubic meters in natural gas” are available for use every year thanks to $50 million of project financing to improve energy sector performance and competitiveness. Since 2012, more than 560 farms and agribusinesses received credit lines made available through six financial institutions. Investment portfolio assets include agricultural machinery, greenhouses, livestock, orchards, vineyards and vegetable farming.

The poverty rate in Uzbekistan declined from 27.5 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2016 as a result of strong economic growth. GDP growth was a robust 8 percent for 2015 and 2016. The business environment has improved significantly due to a more open economic policy. Uzbekistan’s economy will continue to see improvement from internal changes to business-related statutes, like reducing the number of days to register businesses and property. Support from multilateral banks like the World Bank will further promote Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

E.U. is Fighting Poverty
Poverty does not disappear by itself and Europe understands this. The European Union (E.U.) prioritizes poverty as an issue and has helped start many poverty reduction projects throughout the world. Within Europe, the E.U. fights poverty based on its Europe 2020 Strategy that strives to lift 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. Globally, the E.U.’s development policy aims to eradicate poverty through sustainable development. In both of these endeavors, the E.U. is making tremendous progress in reducing poverty. Here is how the E.U. is fighting poverty in Europe.

The EU Fights Poverty in Europe

The Europe 2020 Strategy is an ambitious plan that could drastically change Europe’s economy and social landscape. Some of the strategy’s targets include employing 75 percent of people aged 20-64, providing higher education to 40 percent of people aged 30-34, increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent and using 3 percent of the E.U.’s GDP for research and development. These targets are mutually reinforcing as improvements in education should help reduce unemployment, and improving energy efficiency should make European businesses more competitive, creating more jobs.

The Europe 2020 Strategy is only a “reference framework” that E.U. countries use to create national targets. These national targets mean that governments can now measure their progress and determine whether or not they are reaching their poverty reduction goals. Thus, even though the Europe 2020 Strategy does not force countries to do anything, it has helped countries to measure their progress and determine whether they are doing enough. The strategy receives constant review and the European Commission still believes that the Europe 2020 Strategy is an effective framework that can help create jobs and promote economic growth.

What have the results been? As of 2017, the E.U. managed to provide 39.9 percent of people aged 30-34 with higher-level education, 0.1 percent away from their 2020 goal of 40 percent. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of people at risk of poverty in the EU dropped from 122.8 million to 112.8 million. The percentage of 18-24-year-olds leaving school early dropped from 14.7 percent in 2008, to 10.6 percent in 2017. While the European Commission admits that people need to do more to combat poverty in Europe, the progress so far has been promising.

The EU Fighting Poverty Internationally

The E.U. wants to end poverty worldwide. It is attempting to do so using a couple of different methods. In 2007, the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) created a partnership between the E.U. and Africa. The partnership helped create a relationship between the two groups that could help foster sustainable development that will benefit both parties. The partnership deals with other issues besides development and poverty but has made significant impacts on the latter. For instance, the E.U. accounts for one-third of all the foreign direct investment in Africa. Supporting the Africa-E.U. partnership is the Pan-African Programme which strives to create sustainable human and economic development. The E.U. has allocated $845 million euros to the program between 2014 and 2020. Outside of Africa, the E.U. also plays a large role in poverty reduction. E.U. aid represents more than 50 percent of global aid.

In conclusion, the E.U. is fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development. Within the continent, the E.U. is making progress as education rates improve and poverty levels continue to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Globally, the E.U. continues to lead by example as it sets the bar for providing foreign aid to developing countries. The U.S. has the capability to match these achievements but needs more people to voice their concerns about international poverty. Reach out to congress and encourage the U.S. to end international poverty by clicking this link here.

– Nick Umlauf
Photo: Flickr

Georgia's integration into the E.U.Since the end of the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, poverty reduction and higher employment have accompanied an expanding Georgian economy. However, fears of renewed conflict with Russia, Georgia’s northern-neighbor, jeopardize the progress the nation has made in curtailing poverty and handling the refugee crisis. Georgia’s integration into the E.U. will not only reap economic benefits and accelerate a decline in poverty levels, but also provide Georgia security from Russian aggression.

Georgia’s Relationship to the EU

Despite being a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe, Georgia is not a member-state of the European Union. Since Georgia’s Rose Revolution in 2003, politicians of diverse ideologies have prioritized E.U. membership as an ultimate goal. In fact, a 2009 survey of over 2,400 Georgians found that 50 percent of the population believed that Georgia would join the E.U. within 10 years. While Georgia has yet to join the E.U. in 2019, the Georgian government continues to introduce various reforms to align the country with the tenets of E.U. institutional structures. E.U. membership would help Georgia tackle poverty and inequality.

Free Trade with Europe Increasing National Welfare

Poverty in Georgia remains at 16.3 percent and unemployment at 12.7 percent. Currently, Georgia is allowed to trade in certain industries with the E.U. as a part of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). Once the E.U. admits Georgia and Georgia is able to trade freely with E.U. member-states in all industries, poverty and unemployment will likely decline.

Free trade makes a country more productive by selecting a country’s most productive industries for exporting. Import competition will replace less productive industries, but Georgians will specialize in their more productive exporting sectors and reap the benefits of specialization. Enhanced specialization from trade will raise Georgia’s gross domestic product and increase consumer welfare because Georgians will be able to purchase foreign-produced goods at cheaper prices while specializing in exporting sectors, such as copper ores and wine. Coupled with appropriate distributional policies, free trade will have a positive impact on reducing poverty and unemployment.

EU Membership Shielding Georgia from Russian Aggression

During the 2008 war, 130,000 Georgians became displaced; Action Against Hunger reports that the number of refugees has increased over time. If Russia were to invade again, there would be serious economic consequences. Furthermore, the refugee crisis would deteriorate substantially. Georgia’s integration into the E.U. provides a security agreement under the auspices of the European Defence Union; if Russia interferes with one E.U. member-country, it faces the backlash of Europe. George could reverse its progress in reducing poverty over the past decade. E.U. membership will serve as a security buffer from Russian aggression and a defender of the nation’s recent economic progress.

Because of the protection and economic boost E.U. membership would bring, many political scientists and economists agree with the 67 percent of Georgians who advocate for Georgia’s integration into the E.U.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Romania
Among European Union members, Romania ranks as one of the lowest in terms of life expectancy. Life expectancy can be a complicated issue. It is impacted by many other factors, such as poverty, housing and health care. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Romania will reveal which issues have shaped the current problems in Romania, as well as what can be done to solve them.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Romania

  1. Life expectancy for young people in Romania is the lowest in the European Union. In countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and the U.K., the life expectancy of a young person today is around 85 years. According to the CIA, Romania has a life expectancy of just 75.6 years, giving Romania one of the lowest overall life expectancies in the European Union.
  2. Life expectancy in Romania has had its ups and downs since 1990. Prior to the 1990s, very little research was done on life expectancy in Romania. In the period from 1990-1996, Romania actually experienced a decline in life expectancy of 1.71 years for men and 0.54 years for women. Romania’s life expectancy recovered when this trend reversed in the period from 1996-1998, with an increase in life expectancy of 1.12 years for men and 0.89 years for women. Life expectancy in Romania has been gradually trending upwards since.
  3. Romania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. As of 2018, Romania is among the 10 poorest countries in Europe. The EU has an average GDP per capita of more than $38,000. Meanwhile, Romania’s per capita GDP is only $9,520. Poverty, for obvious reasons, is often inversely correlated with life expectancy.
  4. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Romania. By 2004, the leading cause of death in Romania was cardiovascular diseases which were responsible for 62 percent of all deaths. Romania’s past increases in life expectancy are due partially to a reduction in the rates of heart disease in the late 1990s. This reduction is likely due to a change in diet and reduced obesity rates.
  5. Living conditions in Romania have been steadily improving since the fall of communism. In the past 20 years, the average household income in Romania has increased by more than $2,500, and the unemployment rate has been cut in half. The number of Romanian citizens reported to be living in bad health is now lower than the average for Europe. By 2017, Romanian households had improved access to modern tools and appliances which play a role in increasing living standards. By 2017, 33.7 percent of households owned a personal car, and more than half own computers. Almost every household had a cooking stove, and 56 percent owned a modern refrigerator.
  6. Rural areas have substandard living conditions. In Romania, life expectancy varies significantly between different regions. As is often the case, there is a rural-urban divide. Life expectancies are higher in cities than in the countryside. Urban areas often have access to higher quality medical care, whereas rural regions often have sub-par medicine. Rural areas also have a lower standard of workplace safety. A survey published in 2009 reveals that 64 percent of all workplace accidents take place in rural zones of the country.
  7. Urban regions have higher life expectancies. Bucharest has the highest life expectancy in Romania. The average life expectancy in Romania’s capital is 77.8 years, 2.4 years above the national average. The counties with the next three highest life expectancies are Valcea (77.5 years), Cluj (76.7 years) and Brasov (76.6 years). Each of these counties represents populations that live in urban metropolitan areas.
  8. The Romanian health care system is ranked the worst in Europe. For two consecutive years, Romania’s health care system has been rated the lowest in the European Union in the European Health Consumer Index (EHCI) at 34th. Countries are ranked by quality of care, accessibility and wait times. The study also concluded that Romania’s system was discriminatory towards minority groups such as the Roma, who experience poorer health outcomes on average.
  9. Life expectancy is much worse for minority groups. One of Romania’s largest minority groups is the Romani, or Roma, who represent 3.08 percent of Romania’s population. The Romani people face deep-seated oppression and discrimination which contributes to them being disproportionately impoverished. Among Romani women, maternal mortality rates are 15 times greater than among the rest of the population. An estimated 30 percent of the Romani live in slum-like conditions. The overall life expectancy for the Roma is estimated to be anywhere from five years to 20 years shorter than that of the general population. If life expectancies in Romania are to be improved, then discrimination must cease. The government must make a serious effort to lift disadvantaged minority groups out of dilapidated living conditions.
  10. NGOs have and will continue to play a crucial role in improving life expectancy in Romania. Nonprofits have been very important in improving the lives of Romanians. Groups like CARE and Hearts Across Romania have focused on aiding children, many of whom are abandoned due to poverty. Love Light Romania seeks to combat poverty by promoting access to educational opportunities. Habitat for Humanity has sought to build housing in Romania, to supplement the nation’s insufficient public housing program.

From these 10 facts about life expectancy in Romania, it can be determined that the situation is a mixed bag for Romania. On one hand, life expectancy has shown significant improvement since the fall of communism. On the other, it is clear that Romania still has quite a few social issues that must be corrected if it is to rise to the level of the rest of Europe. Issues such as insufficient health care and discrimination against Roma people still persist, however through government initiatives and continual efforts by nonprofits, these issues can be solved.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Unsplash

Greek EconomyIn May 2010, Greece experienced its first economic bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to rebuild the Greek economy. As a result, Greece was given $146 billion in loans. Greece suffered economic frailty, in part from hosting the 2004 Olympic Games, the global economic crisis, and switching to the euro. Then, in August 2018, Greece received its final loan from European creditors. This loan signaled the end of the bailout program that began in 2015. To work toward financial security, Greece has committed to running a budget surplus until 2060 and accepting continued support from the EU.

Despite this financial turmoil, tourism presents a bright light for the Greek economy in increased revenue. Tourists’ interest in Greece began to boom during the 2004 Olympics, held in Athens. Although the Olympics have been cited as the main cause of the economic crisis in Greece, tourist industries in Athens were surveyed and concluded “the Games upgraded the validity of Athens on the international tourist market.” Since the 2004 Olympics, Athens, on average, has lengthier tourist stays than other major urban destinations, such as Paris and Barcelona. Athenian hotels have also become more efficient since the Games. And ticket purchases for historical sites have also seen an incline.

Tourism Helps the Greek Economy

This surge in tourism has sparked a large revenue intake for the Greek economy. In 2018, travel services in Greece reported an intake of 16 billion euros, approximately $18 billion, up 14 million euros since 2017. They attribute this surplus to a 40 percent increase in travel receipts and a 53 percent increase in travel sales. That year, the effect of tourism on Greece’s gross domestic product was an estimated 20.6 percent, reaching $44.6 billion. In fact, this is double the global average of 10.4 percent. This means one out of every five euros spent in Greece stems from travel and tourism.

Greece is happy with how tourism initiatives have been implemented in the past several years. The country also acknowledges 988,000 jobs lie in its tourism and travel industries. In 2019, Greece expects this job market to reach 1 million jobs. As such, travel and tourism is the largest employer in Greece. Minister of Tourism of the Hellenic Republic Elena Kountoura has noted Greece’s plan for the continued growth of the tourism sector: “We intend to maintain Greece’s strong momentum in tourism and maximize its benefits for the local communities across Greece, acknowledging tourism’s immense value as a major driving force for employment, economic and social prosperity.”

The reparation of the Greek economy has developed a dependence on tourism and travel. From the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea to historical sites such as Delphi, people from all over the world flock to witness a small piece of Greece’s beauty. What they may not realize, however, is they are working to support an economy on the mends. And the positive effect of tourism will continue to increase annually, as Greece works toward financial stability.

Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure Projects in Romania
Perhaps the most well-known motoring experts and critics, the host of the BBC’s Top Gear, named Romania’s Transfagarasan Highway the best road in the world in season 14, episode 1. In general, infrastructure has not been Romania’s strong suit; however, both Romanian politicians and the European Union alike see large infrastructure projects in Romania as the key to Romania‘s social and economic future. There are plans to build roads, railways, ports and a variety of buildings to support the health and safety of Romania.

Unfinished Business

Mismanagement has always been a problem for a post-communist Romania. In 2003, the country began construction on what was supposed to be a nation-changing Autostrada Transilvania highway project that would have stretched from Brasov to Oradea, near the Hungary border, spanning the length of the nation. Construction was canceled in 2013 after high costs and poor management forced the government to abandon the project.

In 2014, the European Union guaranteed 9.5 billion Euros for infrastructure projects in Romania through 2020. Due to shifting government policies and elections in Romania, the EU has had a difficult time effectively following through with the project. Unfortunately, the initial plans went nowhere.

New Commitments to Infrastructure

In 2018, the President of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) met with the President of Romania, giving the world its vote of confidence when it was announced that the EBRD would increase their commitment in funding infrastructure projects in Romania.

Road projects are important. Only 4.3 percent of roads in Romania are highways. To remedy this Romania is planning two major highway expansions. In 2019, Romania will begin planning a 51-kilometer highway called the Bucharest Belt. The Craiova-Pitesti Expressway is the second highway for which Romania has begun to plan and accept bids. It will be 121 kilometers in length and is projected to cost nearly 820 million Euros.

Railways are another important way to move goods and people through and around the country. The Romanian government has big plans for the rehabilitation and upgrading of its rail system. There are 58 investment projects underway to improve Romania’s railway system at an estimated cost of 2.8 billion Euros.

Other Projects in Place

Infrastructure projects in Romania are not only dedicated to roadworks. The Danube river is one of the most important rivers in European history. In Ancient History, it served as the border of the Roman Empire, from which Romania gets its namesake. The Danube has served as a major artery for trade, bordering 20 countries starting in Germany and ending in Romania and Ukraine at the Black Sea. The Romanian government plans to upgrade the Port of Constanta from 2020 to 2025. Improvements to the piers are estimated to cost $991 million dollars.

Other improvements underway are plans to upgrade and expand Romania’s sewage and water treatment systems. The EBRD and the Romanian government have earmarked 2.2 million Euros for the project. The project will help provide more clean water and better water waste removal to the people of Romania. The EBRD will not only provide money but will also provide expertise in the planning process so that the funds are used most efficiently.

It will not be a quick process. Romania has many years of improvement ahead of it. It will be an expensive and long-term task. Hopefully, the commitment of those involved will not falter like earlier projects but will use future roadblocks as opportunities to grow as they work together.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Brexit and Poverty in Britain
In 2016, 51.9 percent of voters in The United Kingdom voted for Britain to leave The European Union. This controversial decision left many scholars and politicians scrambling to predict what social and economic consequences would follow for the country. Many significant studies have been conducted on the possible effects of Brexit and poverty in Britain, but it is impossible to definitively know what repercussions the transition will bring.

In March 2019, the transition out of the EU is set to begin. Many facets of British life, politics and economics will be impacted by this shift, yet the effect of Brexit on poverty in Britain remains complicated and vague. Some may claim that Brexit will not increase British poverty rates while others argue that it will. Some of the most influential determinants of national poverty are healthcare, food security, and household income and expenditure.

Health Care and Medical Services

The British National Healthcare System (NHS) has historically been dependent on non-U.K./ EU nationals to contribute to the medical workforce. In 2017, 60,000 workers in the NHS were non-U.K./EU nationals. Since Brexit, however, many medical professionals have left The U.K. due to uncertainty about legal status and protections post-Brexit. Leaving the EU also makes recruiting international employees more difficult as there will be less recognition of professional qualifications received in other countries.

Immediately after the Brexit vote, the number of non-U.K./EU nurses applying to join the British nursing register fell by about 96 percent. Patients are being forced to wait over longer periods of time for treatment simply because there are not enough medical professionals available. This is a dangerous and potentially fatal repercussion of Brexit.

Food security

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, food security would suffer as 30 percent of the national food supply comes from the EU The country does not have a clear food stockpiling location as it is accustomed to importing food and consuming it rather quickly afterward. The EU is such a large provider of food for Britain that no other country could easily replace this supply.

The U.K. itself will have trouble producing enough to make up for the deficit since it faces its own problems with food production as a result of things like changing weather conditions. Many are concerned that a no-deal Brexit could cause catastrophic food shortages in the country.

Household costs and incomes

Brexit will have a negative impact on the ability of the U.K. to import any kinds of foreign European goods and services. Because of this, the prices of goods and services will increase. Of course, this will affect all populations in Britain, but it will be felt most intensely by poorer households who will not be able to keep up with these price increases.

On the other hand, it is possible that if Brexit may lead non-U.K./EU workers to leave Britain, there may be an influx of job opportunities in the country. This could mean that some poor British citizens may be able to find more lucrative work.

As Brexit approaches, the United Kingdom is beginning to take precautions to ensure that the transition occurs smoothly. Though there is disagreement on what a proper Brexit would entail, all seem to agree that the priority should be the protection of the British citizenry. The political and partisan debates over what Brexit will mean for the country can only involve precaution and prediction as no one can be certain what March 2019 will bring or what the effect of Brexit on poverty in Britain will be. One can only hope that the well being of vulnerable citizens will be considered.

Julia Bloechl
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Serbia

These top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia indicate both the struggles and progress of the country. Serbia officially became its own nation in 2006, following the split of the country known as Serbia and Montenegro. Being a newly independent country, it faces challenges of poverty and unemployment. Nonetheless, progress is being made, as these top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia are showing:

  1. Twenty-five percent of Serbians are impoverished. This percent translates to close to 1.8 million people. Absolute poverty, a more severe condition of poverty has been slowly decreasing, from 7.6 in 2010 to 7.3 in 2016.
  2. Poverty levels vary greatly in each region of Serbia, but in general, the south has a greater rate of people at risk of poverty than the north. Rural areas, where almost half of the population lives, has the double rate of poverty comparing to urban areas.
  3. Households are 10 times more likely to be impoverished if the head of the house has not completed primary school. The risk of poverty directly correlates with the level of education of the head of the household.
  4. Serbia is vulnerable to floods and earthquakes. Earthquakes affect 60,000 people a year and result in losses of $300 million. Floods are even more frequent and also more impactful, affecting 200,000 people and causing a loss of $1 billion yearly.
  5. The primary school completion rate is 94.8 percent. High school completion rate is 90.1 percent. Enrollment rates have been rising since 2010, for males and for females as well. In fact, female higher-education enrollment rate surpasses the male enrollment rate by 17 percentage points.
  6. The overall unemployment rate is 14.8 percent. Youth unemployment rate is 44.2 percent. According to UNDP, the reason for these high rates is the disparity between workforce needs and the Serbian education system. Serbia has adopted the youth employment-focused National Employment Action Plan, among other plans, in an attempt to decrease unemployment from 23 percent when it began in 2013.
  7. The YF Innovation Serbia project, which was completed in 2016, is another way Serbia has made progress towards improving unemployment rates. One of the goals of the project was to encourage entrepreneurship in Serbia by assisting startups, funding projects and opening research institutions. It ultimately helped improve Serbia’s economic growth and create more job opportunities for its citizens.
  8. Serbia is currently working on becoming a member of the European Union. To achieve this goal the country must go through a pre-ascension phase which includes economic development, increased human rights and an improved government system. To aid with this process, the European Union has allocated 1.5 billion euros for Serbia’s development.
  9. Serbia’s GDP is projected to grow by 3 percent or 4 percent by 2020. In 2017, Serbia’s economic growth was slowed by drought and energy production issues but this was a temporary setback. Other sectors, such as industry and services, did show growth despite these problems.
  10. Serbia’s Human Development Index score was 0.745 in 2014 with an average annual increase of 0.6 percent. This score reflects the high level of human development in Serbia

While poverty still remains an issue in Serbia, the action is certainly being taken to counter it, especially through joining the EU. The standards that the EU holds for its members encourage a better economy and quality of life of its citizens. In the past, most countries have seen economic growth as a result of this same process. Evident in these top 10 facts about poverty in Serbia, Serbian poverty shows promise of slowing down.

– Massarath Fatima

Photo: Flickr