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About Us

The Urban Institute

Institute for Market Economics (IME)


The SEE Mortgage Finance Project, which is supported by the United States Agency for International Development, is being carried out by the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., with the assistance of the Institute for Market Economics, Sofia, Bulgaria. Brief descriptions of these organizations are provided below. For questions regarding this website, the SEE Mortgage Finance Project, or the Poland Housing Finance Program, please contact the Urban Institute at CEE@CEEMortgageFinance.org.


Our Mission. The Urban Institute (UI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization established to examine social, economic, and governance problems in the U.S. and worldwide. It provides information and analysis to public and private decision makers to help them address these challenges and strives to raise understanding of the issues and the associated tradeoffs in policy making. Please visit the UI website at www.urban.org for more information.

Established in Washington, D.C. in 1968, the Urban Institute (UI) has become internationally known and respected for its objective information and analyses and for informed policy discussion and debate. The Urban Institute has been working on governance, shelter, municipal, and financial sector issues internationally for over 20 years. In the past decade, UI has had a special focus on the transition economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. UI has a multi-disciplinary staff of over 400, many of whom have government experience at the federal, state, and local levels and have extensive international experience. UI funding comes primarily from federal and state agencies, private foundations with an interest in public policy issues, and bilateral and multi-lateral donors. Through work that ranges from broad conceptual studies to hands-on technical assistance and training, UI staff and consultants contribute to the knowledge available to both private sector practitioners and public officials concerned with formulating and implementing more efficient and effective policies. Numerous resident advisers are leading UI projects worldwide.

Policy Centers. Much of the Institute's research is conducted in ten policy centers, and the cross-cutting Assessing the New Federalism project. These centers address a broad range of social and economic issues, including education policy, health care, criminal justice, shelter policy, social insurance and pension programs, tax policy, and others.

The International Activities Center (IAC) helps policymakers and citizen groups throughout the developing world, in CEE and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union find ways to strengthen government performance and enhance private-sector markets. IAC also co-sponsors the Transition Policy Network. This website, the SEE Mortgage Finance Project, and the Poland Housing Finance Project have been undertaken by UI's International Activities Center, which has delivered assistance to policymakers and citizen groups in more than forty countries, from developing nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to the reform-oriented countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

In recent years, UI's international work has accounted for up to 25 percent of total annual revenue. IAC has earned a distinguished reputation among the public, research, and policy-making communities for our nonpartisan objective analysis. IAC's major areas of expertise include housing and shelter sector policy, mortgage finance and banking sector development, urban development, public administration and management, local government development, decentralization, municipal finance, and promotion of institutions supportive of civil society. These topics are addressed through technical assistance, training, conferences, workshops, study tours, and studies and analyses. A few examples include:

Municipal finance, local government, and decentralization:

  • Helping local governments throughout Central and Eastern Europe and Russia deliver services more efficiently, manage local resources, and strengthen their connection to citizens in the process;
  • Assisting the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in designing and assessing multilateral programs to support fiscal decentralization.

Financial markets, capital markets, and mortgage finance:

  • Assisting and supporting the development of market-oriented housing finance systems in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Honduras, India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Indonesia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Slovakia and elsewhere. UI supports mortgage finance development through hands-on technical assistance, both long-term and short-term; conference development, studies and analyses, and assistance with developing and supporting networking among crucial private sector and public policy players;
  • Expanding the role of capital markets in financing local investment in South Africa, Colombia, the Philippines, and Central and Eastern Europe and determining local debt-carrying capacity for infrastructure project borrowing in the Czech Republic;

Urban development:

  • Providing training to USAID officers on challenges facing cities in developing and transitional countries, including interventions to strengthen urban-rural linkages, promote economic growth, and increase access to essential services;
  • Working for a decade in partnership with government and a nonprofit redevelopment corporation in Jamaica to revitalize downtown Kingston;
  • Suggesting private investment incentives to Russian officials to promote the rehabilitation of historic areas of St. Petersburg;

Shelter sector and social policy:

  • Establishing condominiums owners' associations throughout the E&E region, and increasing their capacity for good management and improvements in housing conditions;
  • Establishing housing privatization centers in Slovakia and assessing housing divestiture among Russian state-owned enterprises, and reviewing the success of housing subsidies for potential home buyers in Latin America;
  • Assessing the progress of pension and social safety net reform in Latin America, the Philippines, Central and Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union.


IME is the first independent economic think tank in Bulgaria. IME's mission is to elaborate and advocate market approaches to the problems Bulgaria is facing in its economic transition. IME received the 2001 Annual Award of the Government of Bulgaria for it's "its overall contribution to the development of the country". IME objectives are to provide independent assessment and analysis of the government's economic policies; a focal point for an exchange of views on market economics and relevant policy issues; and an internationally supported Bulgarian think thank which is widely respected for its expertise. For more information, please visit the IME website (www.ime-bg.org) or contact IME at ime@omega.bg.

IME Key Services.

  • Analyses of current political and macroeconomic developments;
  • Commentary on current economic policies of the Bulgarian government, publishing a general overview of political and economic developments four times a year;
  • Advice to the government and private agencies, investment banks, local and foreign investors, and embassies;
  • Facilitating contacts between foreign investors and Bulgarian market or public institutions, between local and foreign economists and public policy institutes;
  • Conducting company analysis and case studies on individual enterprises and sectors.

Domestic Projects.

  • Competitiveness: sector analyses and case studies in wines, tourism, IT, finance, textile & apparel, canning and microeconomic conditions;
  • Decentralization, regional development, private provision of public services, innovative management tools for firms and public governance on local level;
  • Promotion of applied economics research, improvement of economic information and education in decision oriented managerial approaches;
  • Regulation impact analysis and legislative corrections studies;
  • Growth and prosperity in the Balkans: trade facilitation, initiation of change, monitoring and advocacy.

International Activities.

  • Initiator and co-founder of the Balkan Network of public policy institutes to study fragmented capital and finance markets, quasi-fiscal subsidies and informal labor market, impacts of different crisis situations and embargoes, disseminate ideas for regional cooperation and exchange.
  • Co-founder of the 3-E-Net (Emerging European Economies Network), a joint venture of seventeen policy institutes from eleven countries in the region to advocate market reforms.
  • Member of the Economic Freedom Network, and co-publisher of Economic Freedom of the World Annual Reports.


In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law and created by executive order the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Since that time, USAID has been the principal U.S. agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms. Please visit our website at www.usaid.gov.

USAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. The agency works to support long-term and equitable economic growth and advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting:

  • economic growth, agricultural and trade;
  • global health; and,
  • democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.

USAID provides assistance in four regions of the world: Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Near East, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Eurasia. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., USAID's strength is its field offices around the world. We work in close partnership with private voluntary organizations, indigenous organizations, universities, American businesses, international agencies, other governments, and other U.S. government agencies. USAID has working relationships with more than 3,500 American companies and over 300 U.S.-based private voluntary organizations. USAID's budget in Fiscal Year 2203 is $8.5 billion.

Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, Office of Economic Growth. USAID's Office of Economic Growth (EG) in the Europe and Eurasia Bureau (E&E) organized the Southeast Europe Mortgage Finance Project. The SEE Conference was the second in a series for development of the Southeast Europe financial sector; the first -- "Expanding Financial Intermediation and Managing Risk" — was held in Zagreb in February, 2002. EG supports the core E&E Bureau objective of creating functional market economies in the former socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Specifically, the Office focuses on economic restructuring including energy and infrastructure, macroeconomic policy reform, and developing the microeconomic foundations to sustain competitive economic growth.

The Office oversees the economic growth portfolio of the region, technical assistance activities, and credit programs while providing guidance to the E&E field missions to coordinate economic growth strategies. The Office manages and designs regionally-funded programs such as the Eurasia Foundation, the Partners for Financial Stability, and the Regional Infrastructure Program (RIP). It is also charged with managing several bilaterally-funded activities, including ten Enterprise Funds with authorized funding levels of $1.3 billion.

The Office is composed of two technical Divisions that deal with regional and bilateral program design, strategy, coordination with Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade Pillar Bureau, field Mission liaison and implementation activities supporting the Bureau and Agency objectives.

  • The Market Transition Division (EE/EG/MT) supports the development of sound macroeconomic and microeconomic reforms to assist transition from centrally-controlled, command economies to market economies. The areas of concentration include bank and non-bank financial intermediation (including municipal bond markets, housing finance, insurance and leasing), financial market supervision and regulatory reform, capital market development, privatization, corporate governance, commercial law reform, judicial reform, accounting, anti-corruption, financial crimes, fiscal and pension reforms, and competitiveness to improve enterprise development, national productivity and to increase intra-regional and international trade.
  • The Energy and Infrastructure Division (EE/EG/EI) manages regional energy and infrastructure activities. Areas of concentration include energy production and policy, pricing reform, sector restructuring, regulatory reform, energy efficiency, and infrastructure including water, transport, telecommunications systems, and nuclear safety. In addition, the Division assists the development of private sector and NGO energy groups.

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