This year has demonstrated the quality of Vojvodina’s economic structure. Significant growth of exports and agriculture and preventing layoffs in our province, which has not been the case in many economic sectors in the region and around the world, indicates that we have had a really good year
Construction of a new COVID hospital in Novi Sad’s Mišeluk, reconstruction of the local road network, large infrastructure projects, faster and better development of local governments and procurement of state-of-the-art equipment for production and processing of agricultural products, are just some of the topics we discussed with Igor Mirović, head of Vojvodina’s government, in the interview for this year’s edition of D&C magazine, Invest in Vojvodina.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused numerous problems, but it seems that Vojvodina responded best to this crisis. What expectations did you have for this year and what challenges await you?
We have been working hard since 2016 on overhauling our health care system. Just to illustrate the point, ten clinics of the Clinical Centre of Vojvodina have been reconstructed, while the construction of the Block B and Block C has begun. Bearing in mind that Vojvodina started purchasing protective equipment at the very beginning of the COVID pandemic in Europe when there wasn’t a single case of the coronavirus in the country and that our health care institutions had had state-of-the-art equipment for many years before the outbreak, this facilitated our good response to the crisis.
This year, we are quite optimistic that we are going to overcome challenges and with the huge help of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, we will build a new COVID hospital in Mišeluk. Considering the fact that over 50% of people in Vojvodina have been vaccinated, which unfortunately is not enough to be very optimistic in the second part of the year, the fight continues and we hope that everyone, especially health workers, will give their maximum.
Have you completed all the projects launched in 2020? What projects do you plan to implement this year when it comes to local development?
Compared to other state budget beneficiaries such as the government ministries, cities and municipalities, the Vojvodina administration has recorded the highest level of implementation, especially of capital investments. Extensive works are underway on the reconstruction of the local road network in the Zapadnobački and Srednjobanatski districts, then on the territory of Fruška Gora, and the implementation of large-scale projects such as the construction of the Kamenica 3 Clinic and the National Theatre in Subotica which are near completion. Another big ongoing project is the complete reconstruction and automation of the hail protection system. We have already completed such a project in the Srem district. We have also worked hard on completing important tasks in several cities and municipalities, as initiated by their local authorities. The projects that are not finished will be completed during this and in the coming years, because we believe that balanced local and regional development is important for the development of our entire country.
“The issue of quality and incentives for new processing capacities will become even more important in the future and we will work on that in the coming years”
How much effort have you been putting into ensuring that investments in Vojvodina towns are even, i.e. to avoid the impression that more has been invested in certain towns than in others?
Unfortunately, we still have municipalities that, according to the level of development, belong to the third and fourth group, and we have been doing everything in our power to help them develop faster and better, to stop their population from migrating, to open new factories and improve infrastructure, all in agreement with the relevant local governments and based on individual economic development projects. I can’t say that I am completely satisfied, but changes are visible in many local areas, which is really easy to verify. However, in a dozen or so municipalities, which are mostly located near the state border and which have inherited numerous problems in terms of closed economic potentials, we still have a lot of work to do to be able to say that they have started progressing.
Agribusiness is an important driving force behind the development of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. Which agricultural segments will receive the biggest investments in the coming period?
The programmes funded by the Provincial Government mostly relate to the procurement of the latest equipment for the production and processing of agricultural products. In the previous years, we have increased the agrarian budget, which is a part of AP Vojvodina’s budget, and we are going to do that in the next period as well. The assistance of the Government of the Republic of Serbia was important in terms of the revitalization of our canal network and the overhaul of the irrigation system. In the coming years, significant funds will be allocated towards the procurement of irrigation systems in agricultural holdings. The issue of quality and incentives for new processing capacities will become even more important in the future and we will work on that in the coming years.
How would you rate the overall investments in the Province, in terms of their size and quality?
This year has demonstrated the quality of Vojvodina’s economic structure. Significant growth of exports and agriculture and preventing layoffs in our province, which has not been the case in many economic sectors in the region and around the world, indicates that we have had a really good year, relative to the really good year of 2019. I hope we are going to perpetuate this trend, which will rank Vojvodina first in the long run, not only when it comes to the overall economic development of Serbia, but also much wider, i.e. in comparison to other regions in this part of Europe.
“We have also worked hard on completing important tasks in several cities and municipalities, as initiated by their local authorities”
What are your plans on improving the infrastructure, which is a prerequisite for all development segments?
We have been participating in numerous segments of work done by the Government of the Republic of Serbia and in the preparation of urban and project documentation. The contract on the Fruška Gora corridor was signed and the works have already started. We expect that by the end of the year, a contract on the construction of the Belgrade-Zrenjanin and Zrenjanin-Novi Sad motorway sections and the Sombor-Kikinda expressway, stretching from the border with Croatia to the border with Romania, will have been signed too. At the same time, we expect the construction of the high-speed railway from Novi Sad to Subotica to continue, as well as the completion of the reconstruction of the Belgrade-Novi Sad high-speed railroad in the next few months. These projects will change Vojvodina in the best possible sense, because the less developed municipalities we talked about earlier will have access to the highway and expressway, and thus become more attractive for all types of investments.
In the past four years, you have built ten new and reconstructed twelve industrial zones in Vojvodina, all with funds from the provincial budget. What will be the priorities for the rest of this year?
We analyzed municipalities’ needs for new industrial zones. The Vrbas is certainly one of the priorities because there is no rational explanation as to how the Vrbas municipality does not have enough capacity for additional economic development when it is located near the highway. With the incentives allocated by the Serbia Development Agency and the Vojvodina Development Agency, I think we will steer domestic and foreign investors towards investing in industrial zones in less developed municipalities. That should be our main goal. We will continue with the infrastructural equipping of those zones that are currently being developed and where there is a demand for new investments. Our new zones are already showing results in terms of direct investment – these are the zones in Šid, Sombor, Ruma, Pančevo and a few other towns that did not exist until four or five years ago, and are now development hubs not only of their municipalities but also of our entire country.
Fruška Gora is my favourite
If you were a foreign tourist, what would you visit in Vojvodina?
I like the area of Fruška Gora the most, although I am aware that it still needs a lot of investments. We reconstructed close to 50 kilometres of local roads there. This year, we will complete the reconstruction of the segment from Čortanovci to Banstol and from Grebenski road to Beočin. Fruška Gora lacks more hotel capacities too. I will launch an initiative to put state-owned facilities into operation, privatize them and get additional capital for the opening of new tourist facilities. With its monasteries, numerous wineries and hidden natural attractions, Fruška Gora is and must continue to be a magnet for tourists from all over the world. Hence, Fruška Gora is my favourite.