recent report developed by World Bank shows that more than 15% of people in Romania would consider moving to Cluj-Napoca. Today, however, this Functional Urban Area (FUA)* represents just 2.3% of the total population in the country. Cluj-Napoca is not alone in serving as an attractive urban destination – many people also expressed interest in moving to Bucharest (14.4%), Timișoara (11.9%), Brașov (11.5%), Sibiu (5.16%), or Iași (4.3%).

“So, what, then, are the local administrations in these dynamic FUAs doing to attract these people? The unpleasant answer is: not much, unfortunately.Nor is the central government. Although cities are critical for the performance of the Romanian economy, there is no coherent National Urban Development policies in place, nor are there any state-funded programs targeting cities. Unless urban development becomes a priority for the national government, it is likely that many growth and investment opportunities will be missed in the coming years”, says the report.

Almost 3.6 million Romanians consider moving over the next five years and 66.5 percent of them would still prefer Romania, the most attractive cities being Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara and Brasov, according to World Bank’s “Magnet cities – Migration and Commuting in Romania” reportWhen asked where they would like to move, 66.5% of respondents chose Romania, while 31.3% said they would like to move abroad. According to these results, some 2 million Romanians are taking into account the idea of relocating inside the country within the next five years, while 1.1 million would move outside of Romania. At the same time, those who intend to move have higher levels of education, higher revenues and are employed in the private sector. The inhabitants of less developed regions, such as South-Muntenia or North-East, are more likely to move than those in more developed ones, for instance the West or Center regions.

According to the report, 90 percent of firm revenues in Romania are generated by the functional urban areas of Bucharest and the 40 county capitals – meaning if these urban areas do not function well, neither does the Romanian economy as a whole.

However, while 32.5 percent of new housing units built between 1990 and 2015 in Romania where constructed in the suburban and peri-urban areas of these FUAs, there has been no concerted effort to develop metropolitan infrastructure or public transport systems that would enable the efficient movement of people. Despite 20 percent of national firm revenues being generated in the suburban and peri-urban areas of these FUAs, virtually no integrated, metropolitan business infrastructure has been developed, WB analysts note.

In 2011, only 31 percent of the stable population in Romania (around 6.2 million people) changed their residence inside the country at least once during their life time. However, Romania has one of the highest emigration rates in the EU. Overall, 1.8 million Romanians were commuting for work to another locality in 2011, countrywide. Of those, 1.2 million commuted to the FUAs of Bucharest and the 40 county capitals. Large industrial centers, such as Ploiesti and Pitesti receive more commuters, while service driven economies, such as Cluj-Napoca and Iași, receive more migrants.

However, Romania still has a long way to go. Romania has the second lowest GDP per capita in the EU after Bulgaria – with 15,200 Euro/inhabitant in 2014 representing only 55 percent of the EU average (up from 41 percent in 2007). Currently, Romania has a 7-10 year development lag over other Central and Eastern European countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, or the Czech Republic and a 35 year development lag over OECD counties.

“Without strong and competitive cities, Romania will not be able to bridge this development gap,” World Bank report concludes.

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