The global lender approved the three loans yesterday as part of a three-year arrangement, which allows Bulgaria to borrow as much as $300 million a year between 2006 and 2009 to improve living conditions, the World Bank said in an e-mail today. Bulgaria joined the EU on January 1. It is the block's poorest member and will have to carry out a series of economic changes to integrate with the bloc. „Raising productivity and employment to narrow the income gap with other EU members will remain Bulgaria's main challenge for the next few years,” the World Bank said in an e-mail today.
The Bank will assist „to improve public expenditure management, investment planning and design projects for EU funds.” The biggest of the loans, for €114 million, will support Bulgaria's efforts to reform the health care, education, and social protection systems. The project will help align labor and social policies more closely with EU requirements, the bank said. The second project is worth €54.6 million, of which the World Bank will lend €41 million and the remainder will be financed by the government. It will help improve border crossings with EU neighbors Greece and Romania, and build adjacent roads near the borders. The third loan of €15 million will be used to fight poverty.