Thanks to FIC’s effort, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities have recognized the benefit whereby business associations, such as ours, can make a significant contribution to the decision-making process at all levels of government by providing independent expertise.
The Foreign Investors Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina was formed in 2006 and their focus is on improving the investment climate in the country in order to create better business conditions for foreign and domestic investors. We talked about the current events, cooperation between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the successes achieved during 15 years of FIC’s operations, with the director of the Foreign Investors Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sanja Miovčić.
The first FIC conference called ‘Global Business Executive Retreat 2021’ was recently held. What are the most important conclusions of the conference?
The first ‘Global Business Executive Retreat 2021’ was held from 1st to 4th July 2021, on the Olympic Mountain Jahorina, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was organized by the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FIPA) and the Foreign Investors Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina and under the auspices of the Ministry of External Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The three-day conference is a new format for bringing together managers, government agencies, business people, decision-makers, development agencies and representatives of private and public institutions. We are proud to say that we have managed to connect companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans with companies from West Africa, GCC countries, the European Union, Turkey and China by holding this prestigious business meeting. The general impression of all participants is that this conference format, which was conceived exclusively at face-to-face meetings, business meetings and gatherings, is excellent and necessary after more than 18 months of isolation. The gathering also made a significant contribution in the best possible way to the promotion of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region as attractive investment destinations with huge potential. The intention of the organizers is for the conference to grow into a regular event and facilitate further networking at the local, regional and global levels.
You have been operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2006. What would you highlight as FIC’s greatest achievements in the past 15 years?
Since its inception, FIC has launched an initiative to establish a normative and institutional framework to improve the investment climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina and established dialogue and cooperation with the authorities in the country, in all areas of common interest, through the process of drafting and adopting recommendations contained in our publication called ‘The White Book’. This initiative is part of a broader mission that the FIC has been realizing for 15 years, together with numerous other partners, to build an institutional dialogue between the non-governmental and governmental sectors in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a result of these activities in the past ten years, a memorandum of understanding has been concluded between FIC and the entity governments, and close cooperation has been established with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers, the Parliament of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation and other state and entity agencies and institutions. We are especially proud of the perpetual growth of the FIC network which, in addition to state and entity institutions and international organizations, includes foreign embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, chambers of commerce, regional FIC offices and other non-governmental organizations and associations. Thanks to FIC’s effort, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s authorities have recognized the benefit whereby business associations, such as ours, can make a significant contribution to the decision-making process at all levels of government – local, entity and state – by providing independent expertise.
How would you rate the overall economic cooperation between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina today?
The fact is that Serbia is one of the most important external trade partners of Bosnia and Herzegovina and vice versa. None of the countries in the region has a faster growth of trade than Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which mutual trade has been growing in worth by about 200 million euros every year. Economic cooperation between our two countries improves stability in the entire region, and there is certainly still a lot of room for boosting this cooperation. This implies the free movement of goods, services, capital and people, as well as the fortifying the regional investment area, which contributes to the development of the common market of the Western Balkans and sends out a positive message to investors to invest in the region. We are aware of each other and the success of one economy is directly reflected in the other.
How can the doing business environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina further improve and what are FIC’s key messages?
More than 15 years after FIC’s inception, we can say all institutions and government bodies have opened their doors to us and we welcome all the opportunities provided so far to be consulted on making important changes to existing and adopting new regulations and strategic documents. Therefore, as before, we will insist that the improvement of the business environment for the purpose of economic growth and development remain the priority of public policies.
“None of the countries in the region has a faster growth of trade than Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which mutual trade has been growing in worth by about 200 million euros every year”
First of all, it is necessary to solve the problems that existed and were an obstacle to the real sector even before the COVID-induced crisis. I am, first and foremost, referring to all those unresolved issues that are contained in our publication ‘The White Book’, and the solution of which would encourage foreign and domestic investors to invest as much as possible. Perhaps in the COVID-induced crisis lies a great opportunity because a large number of foreign companies want to move their production facilities as close as possible to their homes. Bosnia and Herzegovina is geographically close to that, it has a good and educated workforce, solid road infrastructure and low-income tax and VAT rates.
What are FIC’s plans for the rest of this year and what projects will you be working on?
The Foreign Investors Council members are usually at the forefront of efforts to create a better business environment and advocate for the simplification of existing legal solutions and the adoption of new ones. We will certainly continue with regular activities through our working groups, as well as continue implementing recommendations from our White Book. These steps and our recommendations for economic reforms in the country and especially measures to boost the competitiveness and private sector development are highly valued by both government institutions and the international community and also help the overall economy and business community. We will continue to promote the 3rd edition of our publication “Business Barometer”, which is a unique source of information about the attitudes of investors (our members), the advantages and weaknesses of the domestic business environment, as well as their plans for reinvesting and creating new jobs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our members have made 70% of the total foreign investments in the country.
“Our members have made 70% of the total foreign investments in Bosnia and Herzegovina”
We hope that the results of the Business Barometer survey will be used as a basis, roadmap and benchmark for future decisions and economic policies, including payroll tax and contribution policies, improve the rule of law and encourage investments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which would ultimately result in faster and higher growth of the gross domestic product, higher employment and higher living standard of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s citizens. Our goal is certainly to have as many members as possible who are willing to join FIC and actively engage in working groups thus contributing to Bosnia and Herzegovina becoming a better place to do business. This year, we started with the formalization of cooperation with local governments in the country under the auspices of the Local Business Alliance project, which aims to improve the public-private dialogue and cooperation between investors and decision-makers at the local level.