Quality education is top priority for people in the Western Balkans, says OECD Development Centre report
10/06/2021 - Strong education, good governance and the rule of law, a clean environment, and dynamic economies offering opportunities were designated as the most important dimensions of a positive future in the national workshops feeding the report launched today by the OECD Development Centre.
The first of its kind dedicated to a region, the Multi-dimensional Review (MDR) of the Western Balkans combines the assessments of five economies: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia.
With impressive unanimity, quality education ranked topmost in all inception workshops. Rule of law and quality public services are also very important to citizens, especially in Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia, indicating the importance of strong institutions. In Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia, access to and quality of health services rank very high. Reflecting differences in development across geographical areas, decentralisation ranks high for citizens in Serbia. Access to quality jobs and environmental considerations are also important.
According to the report, the Western Balkans have achieved remarkable progress over the last two decades, including significant economic and social development, poverty reduction and improved living standards. Geographical proximity to important European markets and production networks, and the ongoing integration with the European Union (EU) have offered additional opportunities for the region to attract international investment, boost competitiveness, develop attractive tourism destinations, and facilitate democratisation processes.
However, entrenched social, institutional and environmental challenges in the region remain pressing. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic poses another huge challenge for the region. While the Western Balkans have managed an effective response overall, the economic fallout has been severe in some economies and a return to more stringent measures is possible. As the countercyclical imperative will necessitate large-scale public spending, identifying strategic priorities become more urgent than ever to ensure that resources are well spent.
The report proposes ten priorities for enhancing the development prospects of all economies in the region:
- Further integration with the EU, an overarching priority that supports the region’s development and regional cooperation
- Combine education with practical training, investment promotion and proactive creation of partnerships with firms, academia and other stakeholders
- Strengthen social cohesion and resilience by reforming social protection, delivering services more effectively and making labour market institutions more supportive
- Ensure access to sustainable and reliable energy supply and address excessive air pollution. Given the small size of each economy and the variation in their endowments in terms of natural resources and energy opportunities, a resilient, climate-friendly and high-performing energy mix only seems attainable at the regional level.
- Boost digitalisation to make economies more competitive and productive, and transform governments and public service delivery
- Recognise diasporas’ significant potential through investment programmes development, sponsorships and incentives for return migration
- Seize the opportunities to increase demand for qualified labour, including female labour
- Address challenges created by current land management and registration of property rights to counter deleterious consequences for rural development, revenue generation and the environment
- Focus on local governments, their funding, incentives and capacities
- Strengthen commitment to effective public delivery and good governance
For more information, journalists are invited to contact the OECD Development Centre’s Press office: Bochra Kriout ([email protected] ; Tel.: +33 145 24 82 96).