Skopje, 24th June 2013 (MIA) – Many benefits for the citizens, financial aid extended at the right time and for the right purpose, professionalism coupled with knowledge and skills and mutual trust feature the partnership between the Republic of Macedonia and the World Bank in the past 20 years.

This was said by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Zoran Stavreski, at the ceremony on the occasion of the 20-year operations of the WB Office in the country.

When talking about the cooperation with the World Bank, Stavreski underlined that Macedonia had chosen a partner 20 years ago who has many professionals, who are best in their field of operations worldwide and who have all the skills and knowledge which, as he pointed out, are necessary for a country to have benefits from that partnership.

– I also believe that we have the same level of knowledge, skills and professionalism at people from different ministries and institutions in the country, who have been good partners to the World Bank in the past 20 years. Hence, we can say we both have professionals, Stavreski said.

When you choose a long-term partner, he went on, it is important to trust him. I believe we have such partner, who respects your strengths and understands your weaknesses and works together with you to overcome that weakness, challenges that are common for a developing country, Stavreski said.

According to him, the relationship has been intensified in the course of these 20 years and is based on mutual respect, hard work and cooperation. – I believe the benefits arising from this relationship are felt by all citizens in the Republic of Macedonia, the farmers on the south, the private sector in the east part of the country, the tourist workers in the southwest, the students, the teachers, the health workers, all those that were included or feel the benefits from the activities the World Bank has been performing in Macedonia, Stavreski pointed out.

He underlined that the assistance from the WB in the total amount of US% 1.3 billion, part of which has already been repaid, has been extended at the right time and for the right purpose.

– The World Bank has always been there when it was necessary, through investments in all sectors in the country, through the public sector, the administrative reforms, development of the private sector, the health, the education, the social protection, the railways, the roads, the utilities infrastructure, everything needed for the development of a small country like Macedonia, Stavreski said.

Ellen Goldstein, WB Country Director for South East Europe, underlined that transformation of ownership structure of the business sector, preserving macroeconomic and fiscal stability contributing to progress, improvement of the business environment and encouragement of investments, the results of which are seen now, as well as avoiding a serious ethnic conflict and undertaking measures to build greater national cohesion were of key importance for Macedonia in the past period.

– Results from these efforts in the past 20 years are much encouraging. We see growth of investments as share of GDP, increase of crediting to the private sector, increase of export and surge of the economic growth by around one percentage in the first decade up to three percentages in average in the second decade. Even unemployment in the last decade started to decline from 37% to 29%. This is not enough, but we have seen that Macedonia has proven to be more resistant to the global financial crisis than many other countries in the region. All this is due to the fundamental reforms undertaken in the course of the last 20 years, Goldstein said.

She pointed out that progress in reducing unemployment and poverty was needed and she strongly hoped that Macedonia would advance. Despite the political difficulties, she said, we hope all parties and citizens will unite for the reforms that contribute to growth and job creation.

– Despite the frustrations, I hope the country will understand that harmonization with the policies of the European Union is good for both the growth and the job creation in Macedonia, regardless of the pace of accession process to the Union. I also hope that the authorities and the citizens will understand that quality of economic development does matter. Growth has to be shared among all segments in the society. And finally, I hope the authorities practice open debate to the end of including all citizens in determining the future of Macedonia and building cohesion in the society. These are my hopes for Macedonia in the next 20 years, Goldstein said.

In the past 20 years, she pointed out, WB was a loyal partner to the country, with substantial technical and financial assistance, which will continue for the reason of the prosperity.

Also available in: Macedonian

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