Sustaining Progress in Transition Countries
Many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have made remarkable progress in recent years, as measured by economic growth and reduction in poverty. But, despite clear gains, the region's middle-income countries continue to face structural bottlenecks that must be addressed before the UN's Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved.
NEW YORK – In the World Bank’s most recent “Doing Business” report, half of the Eastern European and Central Asian countries included in the global ranking were among the top 50. As a measure of economic maturity, the report confirms what many in the international development community have long known: the region is ascendant.
Over the last decade, the economies of Eastern Europe and Central Asia have recorded spectacular gains, buttressed by ambitious market and public-sector reforms. The question now is how to ensure that this progress – which has tripled the size of the middle class – is sustained.
Signs of the region’s social and economic prosperity are everywhere. In Azerbaijan, incomes have increased dramatically in recent decades, and only 5% of the population now lives below the poverty line – down from nearly 50% in 2002. Elsewhere, Estonia is the third country in Europe in startups per person and has one of the fastest Internet speeds anywhere. And from Albania to Kyrgyzstan, e-government systems are allowing more people to connect with critical services through online and electronic portals.