Sertić at Eurosfera Seminar Reforms for growth
There is a strong political will to implement the necessary reforms and prioritise the economy, which are conditions for improving the business environment, promoting investment and economic cooperation.
Diplomatic relations between Serbia and the UK have a 170-year history, but economic relations are still lagging behind the real potential. “Serbia finds itself at a turning point in 2014, as there is a strong political will on the part of the State authorities to implement the necessary comprehensive reforms and make the economy a priority, which are conditions for improving the business environment, promoting investment and economic cooperation”, said Željko Sertić, president of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) at a seminar dedicated to economic cooperation between Serbia and the UK, organized by Eurosfera.
“We should make the most of the opportunities we have, to enable citizens to live better. We have to create such business conditions so that investors will queue up to come to the Serbian market, which must be open, with clear rules of the game, equal for all players. Today’s event is an opportunity for us to present Serbia while it is changing”, said Sertić.
Adopting a panoply of reform laws is the first step in that direction, declared the president of PKS, pointing to the need to enact reform as soon as possible in the public sector and public enterprises, the administration, judicial system, tax system and inspections.
The announced investment incentives through support to domestic business and a new way of supporting foreign investors are very encouraging. “If we carry out what we have announced, we can expect a better business environment in the next five years, a recovering economy and more jobs”, said Sertić asserting that PKS is strongly supporting these processes.
Governor of the National Bank of Serbia Jorgovanka Tabaković announced that the central bank will be very active in the implementation of the announced economic measures and that in providing such support there will be no abuse of monetary policy.
As Tabaković emphasised, one of the main tasks of future governments is to open the world’s door to Serbia, especially for those that can help promote the economy and business environment. “The NBS will be working on the macroeconomic stability of the business environment in the same way it has been doing until now, which means with full commitment”, said Tabaković observing that the primary task of the NBS is to protect price stability, besides measures in support of the Government’s economic policy.
The NBS Governor revealed that in 2014 one billion euros are expected in foreign direct investment, with contracts already signed and waiting to be implemented.
“Our estimate of foreign direct investment is conservative and amounts to one billion euros, but frankly we are expecting even more”, explained Tabaković.
Secretary of the Belgrade Interim Authority Goran Vesić spoke about the capital city’s investment potentials, pointing out that Belgrade has the possibility of cooperating with all larger cities in the UK. Vesić announced the establishment of an Office for Investment in Belgrade.
David McFarlane, Charge d’Affaires at the British Embassy in Belgrade, predicted that 2014 would be a very difficult year for Serbia, not only because of the economic measures that the Serbian Government has to undertake, but also because of the slow economic recovery in the EU.
The British diplomat expressed his expectation that in the coming months the new Serbian government would be able to deal with legislative issues such as adopting laws on planning and construction, labour and bankruptcy. He said that he has no doubt about the commitment of Prime Minister designate Aleksandar Vučić to carry out these measures in full.
“Economic recovery in the EU will be slow, while growth is likely to be hampered by problems in Russia-Ukraine relations”, added McFarlane and stated that this situation might also influence Serbia’s economic development.
McFarlane evaluated the economic cooperation between Serbia and the UK as good, but remarked that trade can be further strengthened. As an example he mentioned the great number of British companies that have been investing in the Serbian market.
President of the Fiscal Council Pavle Petrović thought that pension system reform should be a top priority of the coming reforms in Serbia, since this area sees the largest expenditure.
He also emphasised the high losses made by public enterprises as one of the key reasons why this year’s deficit might reach 8% of the GDP. The President of the Fiscal Council underlined that at this moment it is of the utmost importance for Serbia to sign an agreement with the IMF, which would guarantee that fiscal consolidation proceeds according to plan.
Director of the British-Serbian Chamber of Commerce Michael Collins insisted that Serbia must start dealing with the challenges as soon as possible, so as not to miss this great opportunity. He pointed to the problem of non-performing loans (NPL), saying that it is important to find a good solution so that the banking system does not fall into crisis.
Dedicated to economic cooperation between the UK and Serbia, the seminar gathered representatives of economic and political life from the two countries with the aim of identifying possibilities and challenges in the development of economic cooperation. Organized by the consulting company Eurosfera, the event took place in the Parliamentary Members Club.
According to Mihajlo Rabrenović from the organizing committee, the best indicator of successful cooperation between the two countries is the level of exports from Serbia to the UK, which in 2013 reached 172 million dollars, while in 2001 it had amounted to just 38 million.
“Beside this, we should also consider the possibilities offered by the UK as a bridge towards the 53 countries of the Commonwealth and at the same time a reliable partner of Serbia on its road to the European Union”, said Rabrenović.