How do domestic and foreign investors see the business environment in Serbia?

“Serbia should provide more subsidies for hi-tech companies and less for those that use cheap labour”. How do domestic and foreign investors see the business environment in Serbia and what is their view of direct investments? Some of the biggest investors and representatives of domestic and foreign employers’ associations tried to answer that question at the Kopaonik Business Forum.

When asked what were the main problems that should be solved in the business environment in Serbia, Nebojša Šaponjić, co-owner of NELT, answered “a fast and clear legal system and more transparency”.

Zoran Petrović, chairman of the board of directors of AmCham, mentioned the rule of law, and the cited problems related to corruption and inefficiency of the judiciary and public administration.

Mihailo Janković, Director General of MK Group, pointed out that in addition to the rule of law, there is a shortage of workforce in some areas, while Goran Pekez, president of the Japanese Alliance in Serbia, shares Janković’s opinion, but believes that that could be an asset.

In addition to the rule of law, the president of the Privrednik Club, Zoran Drakulić, adds that the problem is the attitude of the state towards local businesses, without whose investments there would be no high growth rates of 6-7%.

Foreign direct investments have increased from 3 to 8.3% of the GDP in the last 10 years, and Serbia has approached the threshold of being given the investment credit. From the point of view of foreign companies gathered around AmCham, this is a consequence of good and cheap labour, trade agreements and proximity to various markets, as well as macroeconomic stability, low prices and a stable exchange rate.

“Foreign investors have received 14.5 times more subsidies than domestic investors (most subsidies for domestic investors were given to those companies which are close to the ruling party). A month ago, a local investor opened a shopping mall in Niš, a 70-million-euro-investment, and no top official showed up at the opening. The Niš mayor gave a short speech and left immediately afterwards. The road leading to my factory, in which we have invested 25 million euro and have over 15,000 trucks pass through it annually, has not been paved for 10 years, which costs about 150,000 euro to do. We are not against foreign companies and subsidies, but it is time to support investments in high technologies and companies that provide high salaries, not only for those which employ cheap labour”, believes Drakulić, adding that there will still be problems with labour and that Serbia, like some other countries, will have to import workforce.

He concluded that the biggest subsidies have been given to companies that operate in the natural resources market, such as RTB Bor, Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) or the new lithium mine.

(Danas, 26.05.2021)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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