Development Region South: Moldova’s access gate in the cooperation with the Black Sea Basin regions
Under the Law on regional development, the Republic of Moldova is divided into six regions, one of which is the Development Region South (DRS) composed of eight districts: Basarabeasca, Cahul, Cantemir, Causeni, Cimislia, Leova, Stefan-Voda, and Taraclia. [General characteristics] Geographically, the region covers the southern and southeastern part of the country, bordering Romania in the southwest and Ukraine in the southeast. The DRS is 7,379 km2 in area, occupying 22% of Moldova’s territory. The population makes up 13% and the average density 71 inhabitants per km2. In terms of area occupied, the number of residents and the population density, the DRS is smaller than the Development Regions North and Centre. The DRS has also the lowest industrial and agricultural production, compared with the other regions. According to the National Statistics Bureau of Moldova, at the end of 2005 the agricultural output in the DRS accounted for 21% of the total production and the industrial production for only 5%, being several times lower compared with the industrial production of the DRC and DRN. The DRS has ten urban centres, eight of which are district centres. The towns have a population of 5,000 to 36,000. Cahul is the largest town in the region with 35,600 residents and fifth town by size in Moldova. A large part of the region’s areas form part of two Euroregions: Lower Danube and Siret-Prut-Nistru. This contributes to the appearance of opportunities for developing the region. The DRS has a favourable geographical position at junction with Romania and Ukraine and possibilities of bipartite and tripartite transfrontier cooperation within the two functional Euroregions and opportunities of attracting foreign direct investment through the Good Neighbourhood Programmes. The region has the Free International Port in Giurgiulesti, three Free Economic Zones, two university centres in Cahul and Taraclia. The university centres constitute a valuable potential due to the fact that there can be created research and innovation centres in future that will ensure the application of the research results to the economy of the region. The physical accessibility of the region is diversified and develops continuously, especially the air transport (the International Airport Cahul) and the naval transport (through the Giurgiulesti Port). The agro-climate conditions are favourable, the aquatic resources can be used for irrigation, the soil is fertile. All these can contribute to the development of a competitive and modern agriculture. The DRS also has balneal-tourism and recreational potential, attractive at national, transfrontier and international levels. The region is rich in cultural-artistic values such as international and regional festivals, popular traditions and customs; the academic traditions develop; there is a critical mass of active NGOs. [Strong and weak points] The Strategic Planning Group of the DRS was set up with support from the Ministry of Local Public Administration and the EU Project “Support to the Regional Development Implementing Bodies” to ensure the participatory framework for working out the Development Strategy of the DRS. The Group is composed of about 100 people – representatives of the local public authorities, private sector, nongovernmental organisations and of other important organizations in the region. Since its inception in mid-February 2007, the Group carried out the SWOT analysis through interactive methods, on the basis of the results of the social-economic audit. There were identified the strong points, the opportunities that can facilitate and catalyse the development of the region, as well as the impediments to the development process marked by risks and limitations. The developed infrastructure of the 53 wineries and the rich winemaking and winegrowing traditions are a strong point of the DRS that contributes to the formation of the region’s brand. According to Silvia Strelciuc, consultant of the EU Project “Support to the Regional Development Implementing Bodies”, the Group members pointed to the main barriers that hinder the development of the region, the weak points. The DRS is a mainly agricultural region and a large part of the regional problems reside in the fact that this sector is underdeveloped. The rural population makes up 74% and 60% of the economically active population is engaged in agricultural activities. There were identified two categories of problems: problems regarding the rural development and problems concerning the convergence of the Development Region South. The low productivity in agriculture, the industrial decline, the rudimentary infrastructure, the poorly developed processing industry, the limited number of markets where the production can be sold, the poor provision with utilities, the degradation of the urban areas – all have led to the rural degradation in the southern region. The convergence of the DRS is caused by the territorial fragmentation and by the interconnection of the Development Region South with another development region – the Autonomous Territorial Unit Gagauzia, which can hamper the implementation of regional projects. It should be noted that the regional focusing and coagulation could be ensured by a clearly contoured urban regional centre, but no such centre exits in the region at present, as for instance the town of Balti for the Development Region North. [Comparative and competitive advantages] The Strategic Planning Group South identified and analysed the comparative and competitive advantages of the region, including: 1. The favourable geo-political position (international communication and access ways: seven auto border crossing points and two rail border crossings, two functional Euroregions, border with Ukraine and Romania as EU member state, the Good Neighbourhood Programmes); 2. Potential for industrial development and for developing small and medium-sized businesses (Free International Port Giurgiulesti, three Free Economic Zones, lands for developing the industrial areas, international power transportation networks); 3. Rural development (tourism, vineyards, winemaking and winegrowing traditions and extended infrastructure, favourable agro-climate conditions, aquatic resources for irrigation); 4. The utilisation and development of the human resources (university potential, two Euroregions, tripartite transfrontier cooperation, a critical mass of NGOs); 5. Tourism-recreational potential (historical-cultural patrimony, balneal-tourism potential, an international airport, making- and wine-growing traditions and extended infrastructure). The vision of the region was formulated at another stage of elaborating the DRS Strategy. The participants in the workshops tried to imagine how the DRS will look in future. “The Development Region South will become a dynamic and prosperous region and Moldova’s ‘access gate’ in the cooperation with the regions of the Black Sea Basin. The region will be oriented towards competitiveness and innovation. It will put to good use the local resources and capacities and offer a simulative environment for foreign and national investment. The region will provide pleasant working and living conditions for the residents and receive the visitors with hospitality. It will preserve, develop and promote its values and the inherited natural patrimony.” [Strategic Objectives] Natalia Hadei, consultant of the EU Project “Support to the Regional Development Implementing Bodies”, considers that the strategic objectives of the region constitute the vectors of the development process that strengthen and increase the comparative advantages and develop the priority areas, ensuring a multiplying effect. The following strategic objectives were formulated for the DRS: 1. Economic growth and diversification based on the comparative advantages and oriented towards the development of the priority areas; 2. Development of physical and asocial infrastructure; 3. Strengthening of regional, transfrontier and international cooperation and creation of partnerships; 4. Polycentric development and consolidation of regional cohesion; 5. Development of capacities and continuous formation of the human potential to ensure a qualitative employment. Later, there were worked out specific objectives for each strategic objective separately and proposed measures to achieve them. There are collected project ideas for formulating the Operational Plans for 2007-2009. The Strategic Planning Groupe South relies on a participative process of working out the region’s Development Strategy. It calls on the region’s residents, who are the main beneficiaries of the Strategy, to propose ideas and measures that would ensure a quick development and a benefic living and working environment for the inhabitants. The regional strategies are the principal document of the regional development policy on the basis of which there will be formulated the governmental document that will financially support the development projects in the regions, called the Common Program Document.