Dejan Đokić, NALED: We are the Best Platform for Dialogue

Not only in Serbia but beyond, there is no organization that brings together all three key segments of a society within its membership on a voluntary basis – the private, public and civil sector

For a reform to succeed, it needs to be free of any ideological prejudice or individual interests, it needs to be objective, measurable and sustainable. It should provide all stakeholders with equal opportunities to engage in a dialogue regarding the final reform course and contribute to shaping it. And lastly, the reform needs to have a long-term perspective.

This is the only possible recipe and the path NALED has been following for more than a decade. It is for this reason that, ever since our establishment in 2006, we have been a credible Government’s partner in devising and implementing the measures that improve the business environment in our country. From participation in drafting regulations, through development of procedures and software solutions to organization of trainings for civil servants implementing the laws, NALED can make this process happen. Let me highlight the examples of construction permitting reform, the introduction of new procedure for registering property in the real estate cadaster, or the simplified registration of seasonal workers in agriculture. These are all major steps forward in a world of administrative procedures, where we were the ones that proposed the initiative, and where we had a key role in initiating a public-private dialogue, coordinating institutions to harmonize and draft regulations, ensuring donor support to ease the taxpayers of additional costs, and finally successfully implementing the adopted solutions.

Nowadays, there are not many independent business associations in Serbia that have the capacities to stand as a partner to state institutions in this manner, from the beginning to the end. I am sure it was the quality of solutions we are proposing that made a difference. And this quality stems from NALED’s unique structure.

Not only in Serbia but beyond, there is no organization that brings together all three key segments of a society within its membership on a voluntary basis – the private, public and civil sector. We are a platform which can efficiently process every idea and initiative through a filter involving various different perspectives, and thus reach a balanced solution, which benefits the common interests.

Diversified membership ensures NALED’s neutrality. Together, we identify the problems and obstacles standing in the way of development, propose practical solutions and help with their implementation.  These solutions are based on thorough research and analyses, so they are endorsed with concrete facts and figures.

Who are NALED members?

– We can say we are the largest and most influential public-private association and think-tank in Serbia.

Today, NALED brings together nearly 320 members, including businesses, local governments and civil society organizations. Our honorary members include the major faculties and research institutions active in the fields of economics and law. Slightly more than a half of our members come from the private sector – although the big names of globally successful companies are probably more recognizable to everyone, in fact most of the business sector in NALED is made up of small and medium-sized enterprises (54%), while large domestic and foreign companies account for 46%. With 130 cities and municipalities in our membership, we gather more than three quarters of local governments in Serbia, along with more than 30 CSOs, various associations of entrepreneurs, small producers, as well as a number of academic and independent state institutions.

Along with improving the business environment which is essentially important for businesses, I believe that NALED’s work is equally significant for the local governments. In Vojvodina municipalities only, over the past three years we have provided training for nearly 3,000 officers for implementing new legislative solutions, and we believe this support is very important for them. Additionally, the local governments involved in the Business Friendly Certification program in South East Europe (BFC SEE) implemented by NALED since 2012 with partners from Croatia, BiH, North Macedonia and Montenegro, are nowadays the champions of business environment, standing out by the quality of administration and services provided to businesses. At the moment, there are 18 local governments in Serbia holding the certificate representing a seal of quality and the proof that they are business friendly or undergoing the certification process.

Why is being a NALED member important and useful?

– An inevitable criticism highlighted by businesses or the civil sector is the lack of dialogue with state institutions. NALED is an organization that manages to overcome this problem and owe this primarily to our great persistence, and to the analytical approach to the evidence based reforms.

How does one influence the public policies through NALED? It all starts from taking part in the organization’s Annual Assembly, with members proposing activities and voting for the priorities NALED would further address. They can also join NALED’s theme working groups – the so-called alliances, currently focusing on six areas – fair competition, eGovernment, food and agriculture, healthcare, property and urbanism, and environment protection. Another good opportunity to influence the improvement of business environment is nominating recommendations for the Grey Book – NALED’s “regulatory Bible”, which provides institutions with a clear list of problematic procedures and proposed solutions. Further on, NALED members have the opportunity to participate in dozens of conferences, roundtables and expert conferences with decision-makers, use the exclusive right of access to our databases and analyses, participate in the design and implementation of reform projects supported by international institutions and partners such as USAID, EU, GIZ, the British Good Governance Fund, the EBRD, the Dutch Embassy, ​​the Norwegian Embassy, ​​the World Bank and many others.

NALED has also made a significant step towards improving the dialogue between the state and businesses by initiating joint bodies, such as the Expert group for countering shadow economy or the Joint group for improving Serbia’s position in the Doing business list in which our members actively participate. These bodies are tasked with developing national strategies and plans, and they are the right place to directly impact the path for stimulating a favorable business environment.

We have participated, or are currently a part of more than 50 working groups for drafting laws, by-laws or strategic documents.

Who can become a member of NALED?

– Joining and participating in NALED­’s work is done solely on a voluntary basis. Over a decade of work on building the organization’s integrity has given us the imperative of admitting only companies and organizations that meet a number of criteria. It is important to us that they understand and accept NALED’s Code of Ethics, that they are socially responsible and do business responsibly, meaning that they respect the laws and settle their tax liabilities. It is also important that their work does not adversely affect the business environment.

All the necessary information regarding membership in NALED can be found on our website, and after submitting the necessary documentation and verification, one becomes a full member, which, in addition to numerous rights and privileges, also carries responsibilities, primarily in the form of supporting the organization’s activities and advocating the mutual goals set by the members.

Which key results that NALED achieved last year would you particularly point out?

– We are very satisfied with the past year as several significant reforms that we have initiated or designed over the year have been set in motion and implementation. By that I mean, first of all, the start of the implementation of a simplified registration procedure for seasonal workers in agriculture. While we had 3,500 registered seasonal workers in the previous years, this year the number has increased to 27,000 thanks to the electronic registration procedure through a website. It is the first public service available in form of a mobile application. Also, we took the cadastral reform a step further by having our initiative to abolish tax returns in the property registration process accepted. And our third big win in 2019 is the introduction of a software for automatic and objective calculation of taxes for lump-sum entrepreneurs.

In addition, I would like to highlight our contribution to improving Serbia’s position on the Doing business list from the 48th to the 44th place thanks to the changes in the Law on Insolvency and the Company Law, we also should not forget our work on the abolishment of mandatory use of stamp, the introduction of tax exemption for start-ups through the Start legally campaign, and the development of a new Action Plan for countering shadow economy and eGovernment Development Strategy.

Key priorities

What are NALED’s key priorities for 2020?

– have set the agenda for the new year very ambitiously and we would love to achieve significant results in the field of resolving property issues, and by that I mean above all the need for creating eSpace, a system for the development of spatial plans, as well as tackling the issue of conversion of land rights. Another important area of our ​​work will be strong advocacy for reducing the tax burden on wages, regulating new forms of employment, as well as expanding the scope of electronic registration for seasonal workers in agriculture to other fields of work as well. The third focus will be on the further development of eGovernment, that is, the launching of the eAgrar system for registering agricultural households and the allocation of subsidies in agriculture, the introduction of eMailbox, electronic document submission system, eBulletinBoard and eAuctions.

We will work to eliminate para-fiscal charges through the development of a public registry of non-tax levies, and we will also focus on countering shadow economy, with particular importance placed on expanding the scope of fiscalisation and developing a system for more efficient reporting of illegal businesses practices through the establishment of a single contact center.

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