Significant funds were allocated to applicants and projects from underdeveloped municipalities towards the development of entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the main driving forces behind the development of individuals and communities. The intention is to continue making evenly distributed investments in the development of economic branches.
The goal of the Provincial Government and its line secretariats is certainly achieving the uniform growth and development of all Vojvodina districts and local self-government units. Large-scale infrastructure projects of strategic importance, such as significant investments in road infrastructure and new factories and production facilities, significantly improve the quality of life of residents living in the Vojvodina, as well as affect the economic and market trends. However, the fact that they significantly affect demographic trends, more precisely the labour migration, both in the country and abroad, is undisputed.
Which parts of Vojvodina, that are still insufficiently known to foreign investors, are suitable for investments?
There is an obvious impact on the age structure of the population of both the Province and the entire country, given that in addition to boosting the existing and building new infrastructure within most segments and aspects of business, there is a more even distribution of able-bodied population and opportunities to start a family outside larger territorial units, such as cities and bigger municipalities, i.e. in a smaller, rural environment.
Vojvodina occupies the fourth place in SEE in terms of the strategy for attracting foreign investments, with the Italian, Spanish and Slovenian regions being a strong competition. If we look at the previous time frame of one decade, total FDIs in the Republic of Serbia are measured in billions of euros, with investments in the AP Vojvodina accounting for more than 35% of all investments in the country.
The number of companies that invested in Vojvodina in the aforementioned period clearly shows a significant increase in the number of those that invested their capital in the AP Vojvodina. Agribusiness, financial sector, construction and pharmaceutical industry, followed by crude oil industry, retail and metal-processing sector, as well as textile and automotive industry are economic branches with the largest share in foreign direct investments. Furthermore, a significant increase is recorded in the information and communication technology sector, as software is one of the leading export products of this sector and has taken precedence over most products from other branches. We can thank the large number of IT companies that have their headquarters in the territory of Vojvodina for that, and most of all in the City of Novi Sad, where the Faculty of Technical Sciences of the University of Novi Sad plays a big role.
Besides Novi Sad, Zrenjanin and Subotica have received the biggest number of investments and, consequently, employ the most workers. Also, Indjija and Stara Pazova are not far behind, which is due to their favourable geographical position, the proximity to Novi Sad and the capital, the proximity of the international airport, and the accessibility of key road and railway corridors. In terms of labour, Vojvodina is not only a region whose labour is considered “cheaper”, but has very qualified and trained staff and experts, which is something that investors should keep in mind.
“One of the challenges is certainly the development and improvement of human resources in all sectors of the economy because we need to achieve international standards”
How does Vojvodina fight against the unfavourable demographic situation, and how does it affect the availability of skilled labour?
One of the challenges is certainly the development and improvement of human resources in all sectors of the economy because we need to achieve international standards in the provision of services and production, which includes adequate education of the working population and even highly skilled labour force to meet the requirements and needs of the labour market. Therefore, it is functionally necessary to make significant investments in education and efficient use of digital technologies, on which new methods, competencies and business and management intelligence systems are based.
There is still a justified need for implementing more concrete measures at all levels, which would enable professional development, additional training and retraining, and through adequate educational programmes, exchange and cooperation between relevant institutions and establishments. The problem that is popularly called “brain drain” is not a problem that affects only the Republic of Serbia, but also all countries in the region, including Eastern Europe.
How do you see the further development of SME sector, but also the tourism sector, especially having in mind the innovative resources that Vojvodina has?
Certainly, the stimulus measures intended for businesses and entrepreneurship devised by the Serbian government, together with the Provincial government, which have facilitated fast and efficient action due to the growing crisis induced by the COVID-19 contagion, have greatly contributed to maintaining business continuity and preventing unemployment, as well as the closure of companies, especially micro and small ones.
“With the population of close to 2 million, the AP Vojvodina is a fertile ground for the coexistence of more than twenty nationalities”
We have six official languages, and as such, we occupy the second position in Europe in terms of the number of official languages, right after the European Parliament. Besides, Vojvodina has an established institutional system and numerous institutions that operate within various spheres, starting with science and technological development, mining and energy, interregional cooperation, regional development, agribusiness, tourism, environmental protection, transport, trade fairs and business events, all the way to culture, health and social welfare. Vojvodina is certainly able to use the benefits from the signed free trade agreements, such as the Free Trade Agreement between the countries of Southeast Europe, then the Free Trade Agreement with the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the Free Trade Agreement with the EFTA countries and the like.
“Observing every aspect of economic, social, demographic, cultural and historical development, people remain the greatest resource in the AP Vojvodina, with all their peculiarities”
These are the people of unique qualities and mentality, who cultivate a special relationship with their abundant cultural and historical heritage. This makes Vojvodina, spanning 22,000 square kilometres, a competitor to European culture. Connecting the mentioned starting points contributes to the improvement of young generations’ qualities. Vojvodina, within its competencies, encourages and helps to preserve and develop the mentioned values and the national communities’ right to exercise their rights, and through special measures and activities, it helps people to get to know each other and respect diversity. The initiatives and supporting the implementation of measures aimed at encouraging further growth and development in all aspects of the economy, but also other relevant sectors, are the results of this.
Investments in the health care sector have been announced. Is more money going to be invested in facilities and equipment or people?
According to the head of the provincial government, Igor Mirović, the provincial government will nurture the principle of continuity in the new term, as one of the most important goals, in addition to strengthening unity and assembling around the implementation of various projects, careful management of public finances and respect for rules, legality, thrift and diligence.
A lot of money had been invested in health care even before the crisis, and as a result of institutional activities of the previous government, the work on Kamenica 3, investments in the Clinical Centre of Vojvodina, investments in health centres in cities and municipalities in AP Vojvodina and the like are continuing. The projected continuity of investments and allocation of funds in health care is extremely important for the economy and employment, given the fluctuation of health workers in the labour market. The announced investments in health care could, in many ways, have a favourable effect on the recovery of health tourism, but also congress health tourism, which are among the most endangered tourism events, and which include a large number of participants, considering that Vojvodina has always been well-positioned on the map of congress regions.
How does the digital transformation of companies in Vojvodina follow the needs of the increasingly demanding market, but also of domestic and foreign investors?
The digital transformation of businesses, but also of society in general, has slowly but surely become an inseparable part of our reality and a part without which the daily functioning of both the individual and businesses has become unthinkable. From the engineering and managerial aspect, by fostering a professional approach to the digitalization of business processes, we need to raise the level of competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. The digital transformation of the company means changing its business model by modifying strategic processes with the help of modern technologies, in order to provide more efficient communication with potential clients and the market, while the company creates conditions for successful business growth, which consequently affects the economic development.
We will try to maintain continuity in this domain as well, but its expert team will also devise more innovative approaches to the implementation and realization of incentive measures for modernization and introduction of innovative processes in the business of companies in the AP Vojvodina.
Allocation of funds
During the last provincial government’s term, the Secretariat provided and allocated multimillion funds to subsidize the purchase of machinery, equipment, software, raw materials, as well as to improve market competitiveness, including support for innovative products, creative economy, women’s entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, which gave visible and measurable results in terms of higher competitiveness of businesses, but also the overall development of the economy and entrepreneurship. We will certainly continue to move in the direction of maintaining continuity in providing support to incentive measures.