February 17, 2016 / 5:53 PM / 2 years ago

Romanian government kicks off anti-poverty drive

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s government kicked off a public debate on Wednesday on a plan to lift at least 580,000 people out of poverty over the next four years, targeting education and healthcare for underprivileged communities in an initial phase.

Romania has made massive economic strides since it joined the European Union in 2007, but it remains one of the bloc’s poorest states, with a tenth of its 20 million people living in poverty and more than 40 percent at risk of tipping into it.

The cabinet of technocrat Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos proposed a set of 47 measures with a price tag of around 1 billion euros ($1.11 billion).

Larger investments in local infrastructure, such as building roads and schools were not included in the preliminary cost estimates.

The measures include plans to offer medical screenings, vocational classes, affordable housing and soup kitchens, as well as to cut domestic abuse rates and guarantee small loans for local businesses.

The EU could provide the bulk of the funds through local development cash it sets aside for each member state, the government’s draft proposal showed. Brussels aims to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty across the EU by 2020.

The government also hopes to provide children in vulnerable communities with school supplies, clothes, vitamins and toothpaste, as well as install solar panels for the nearly 115,000 Romanians across four counties who do not have electricity.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by John Stonestreet

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