Various investments totalling €670 million will help upgrade over 830 km of key roads in the country, funding expected to have a significant impact in the comparatively small nation, which extends some 300km from north to south and only 100 km east to west.
With 3.5 million inhabitants, Moldova has a limited internal market and the success of many entrepreneurs depends on exports. However, their products need to reach their destinations first. Along the way they have to overcome quite a few obstacles – often quite literally.
Tudor Coşleţ, who runs three small companies in the sewing industry, pointed at sections of road where cars have to avoid potholes at walking speed. “As a company director, the quality of roads is very important to me,” he said. “It takes longer for a truck to get to the client, vehicles can get damaged more easily and the production costs increase.”
Mr Coşleţ’s business is only one of many examples of export-oriented businesses – in the agribusiness, machinery and other sectors. The opportunities for the Moldovan economy are great: over the last two years, the export volume to the EU, the country’s biggest trading market, has increased by more than 20 per cent.
Furthermore, it is expected to continue to grow with the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
“The competition from abroad is tough, so every cent is very important for our production costs,” said Mr Coşleţ. “If there are good roads and other infrastructure in Moldova, investments that Moldova urgently needs will follow and will help boost the economy.”
This is clearly a long-term project of the three partners: the EBRD, the EU and the EIB, explained Octavian Costas, Senior Banker in the EBRD’s Chisinau office.
“Improved roads help to connect businesses and economies, but not only – there are great benefits to the Moldovan people more generally, to whom this makes an enormous difference in their daily lives,” he said.
This is, for example, the case in Hînceşti. As in many other Moldovan towns and villages, parents busily rush their children to school in the morning, navigating them through the rush-hour traffic – and various rain-filled potholes. They are well aware of the poor state of the roads and the danger this exposes their children to.
“Yes, of course, we are concerned for our children,” said a young mother in front of a local kindergarten. As children such as her daughter are supposed to cross the street, the cars are racing down bad and unsafe roads as they wish, she added.
With funding from Luxembourg, the EBRD organised road safety trainings for various civil society stakeholders across the country, including NGOs working with children, teachers in schools, kindergartens and other most affected groups to complement the work on upgrading Moldova’s roads.
The course was developed and delivered by the UK charity Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport and the Moldovan non-governmental Automobile Club. It provided practical advice for drivers, passengers (including those with children), pedestrians, farmers on horse carts and other road users on how to stay safe.
Biljana Radonjic Ker-Lindsay, the Head of the EBRD’s Civil Society Engagement Unit said: “Engaging civil society organisations to reach out to communities along the roads which the Bank helps rehabilitate has been crucial in promoting road safety. Our goal was to teach community and civil society leaders about safety measures so that they can raise awareness and train more people on the topic. Through this ‘train-the-trainer’ approach the project is expected to have a deep and long-lasting impact.”
Ana Dubceac, a local kindergarten director, took part in the activities. “Road safety is important for all citizens in Moldova, but even more so for children because they are our future. Teaching staff and assistants – along with the children – need training on this.”
The EBRD and its partners’ work will help keep Moldovans safe on their way to work and school. An improved infrastructure also means better business – building the road ahead to a more prosperous future for Moldova.