Mr Palm's speech during the inauguration of the community center "Today for the future" in Keneta / Durres on 7 June 2012
For most children, growing up is easy and natural. The first years are the most important. This is when children learn to socialize and form their main habits. The first years determine the place of the child in the community when she or he is grown up.
But children from disadvantaged communities find it more difficult to socialize and integrate. Exclusion starts at birth. If we aim for an inclusive and equitable society, we better start with young children.
This center cannot completely eliminate poverty among the people which it aims to serve. But it can help children, even if they come from families who are poor, to receive the stimulation, the health check ups, the early learning opportunities that other children enjoy. It will help those children to escape the conditions that create poverty. It will help to avoid that poverty is inherited from one generation to the next.
Our support has been guided by the motto: school ready for children; children ready for school. Similar support is provided to communities in Elbasan, Saver, Baltez, Morave and others. Aside from typical pre-school activities, we help schools to know how to receive children from disadvantaged families and how to track their progress, including through helping with homework or involving counselors in following up with children at risk.
At this point I like to appeal to those making decisions in the city the council or treasury. There is overwhelming irrefutable evidence that the return of any investment in public spending is the highest, when it is directed towards the early learning and inclusion of children from the most disadvantaged communities. For every dollar invested in the early integration and learning of those children, the larger community can expect a return of 4 to 16 Dollar, as the children grow up to their full potential and become productive participants in the economy and social life. This is more than any banker or investor can expect. Importantly, not investing in such interventions will create much larger costs later on.
Therefore, we celebrate here an important milestone. I encourage central and local governments – including of Durres –to closely look at this model. There still is room for more public investment, and for creation of public-private partnership. Equitable societies are better for everyone, and it is time to show solidarity with the children from the more disadvantaged communities.
I wish the center and its entire staff all success, and I am confident that you will become a precious resource for your community.