Mr Palm's speech during the Mayor's conference organized by Terre des Hommes and Save the Children in Albania on 19 April 2012
Cities are the places of progress. Cities drive the economy. If cities don't do well, the country will not do well. That makes the work of local authorities so important, especially the work of mayors and councils. You have diverse responsibilities, many of which I don't know that well. But I congratulate you, because you drive progress in Albania.
I just wanted to remind ourselves, that we need to watch how economic progress happens. Take a rich person who earns 2000 Euro a month. Because of a better economy, he gets 10 percent more. He will get 200 Euro more than before. This is quite something.
Now take a poor person, who earns 200 Euro a month. He also gets 10 percent more. He will get 20 Euro more than before. This will not help his family to get out of poverty. Poor people do not automatically benefit from economic growth.
So, when there is economic progress, the rich get rich faster than the poor get out of poverty. This is the same in any country in the world. And when people become very unequal, you are in trouble. Crime will increase. Violence will increase. Unemployment will increase. That's why any town needs social services. If you don't pay attention to the social services, the poor will remain poor and you will have huge social problems. Social services are not a burden, but an investment.
Most of you have a business. As a businessman you know that to make profit, you need to invest. You need an accountant, you need to advertise, you need to repair your car. In the same way, if you run a town, you need to invest, also in social services. If you don't invest in social services, your town will go kaputt.
Even if you have a social service department, it may not be accessible to all who need help. Some people may not know to what they are entitled to. Others can't read and fill the form. Others may not need financial help, but special services, because a family member is disabled. Or the family is not functioning well. Let's face it, domestic violence is a big issue, and women get beaten by crazy husbands. Or children may be neglected or abused. Social services must be adapted to a big range of problems.
Don't think that ndhima ekonomike can solve all the problems. Social work is a skilled job. It is a profession requiring trained persons; it requires licensing, inspection, complaints mechanisms. Don't think you can have it cheap. If you want to be professional, your staff need to be professional and competent, too. But they also need to be valued, as part of your town "business". Don't take it lightly; social work is often the toughest job you may have in your administration.
Albania has made tremendous progress in terms of legislation and policy development also in the social field. But it hasn't been turned into practice yet. It is up to you to ensure that social services are recognized as part of running a town, and are making a difference for people who can't help themselves any more.
Let me sum up. Any city, anywhere in the world needs social services. Without a social service, you create a huge problem for the people who are poor and for yourself. Social services are not a burden on your budget, but an investment in the future of your city. You need to budget for social services as you budget for road construction, or water supply. Social assistance is more than ndihme ekonomike. Social services need to be delivered professionally. You can demand good reporting and good quality performance. Your staff needs to be carefully selected, and recognized. Policies exist. It is up to you to turn them into practice. And ensure a good future for your town, and all people who live there.