We have asked the people we have intereviewed so far to give us their prognosis on whether Serbia will stagnate or progress in 2017 compared to 2016, and to tell us what changes in the business environment would be crucial for that happening. We have also asked them to tell us how much do magazines like Diplomacy&Commerce can contribute to exchange of opinions, points of view and facts about Serbia, and to providing better information about our country and its potential to interested parties.
- Do you think Serbia will stagnate or progress in 2017, relative to last year, and what changes to the business environment could play a crucial role in that?
- How much do magazines like Diplomacy & Commerce contribute to the exchange of opinions, stances and facts about Serbia, as well as informing all interested parties about our country and its potential?
Martin Knapp, Director of the German-Serbia Chamber of Commerce (DSW)
The phenomenon of parliamentary elections
- 1. I hope that this year there will be no parliamentary elections. Every time there are elections, the state’s life almost comes to a halt, which in turn impacts on the economy. In Germany we also know the phenomenon that parliamentary elections are always going to happen in one of the 16 federal states and that less popular decisions are being postponed because of these elections, even at the level of the federation. In Serbia we have a similar effect caused by repeated parliamentary elections.
- The international press reports little about Serbia and if that does happen then it is mainly about problems. This is not because of malice, but because of the fact that news about problems is always regarded as more important than other messages, however interesting they may be. To this extent, magazines like Diplomacy&Commerce fill a gap. If they are also entertaining and critical, that’s even better.
Zoran Petrović, Chairman of Managing Board of American Chamber of Commerce
Improving the constructive dialogue
- I expect that positive changes in economic environment and Serbia’s further economic progress will hinge on successful implementation of both the ongoing and announced reforms. A survey which the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) conducts in Serbia every year among its members, which shows the level of satisfaction with the business climate while identifying priority tasks for the next period, showed that increasing predictability of the tax system and non-tax levies, reforming the Tax Administration, further countering of shadow economy, wider implementation of e-governance and reforming the health sector are vital steps towards improving business climate in Serbia. Considering that AmCham’s members are the most successful American, Serbian and other international companies which operate on the most developed global markets, modernization of legislation to reflect the one in the EU is also high on their agenda. We think that it is vital to continue progressing and improving the constructive dialogue between businesses and the government in order to better plan further reforms and more consistently monitor the results of the ongoing ones.
- Business magazines like Diplomacy & Commerce are an important platform for providing information about the events and news from various business areas. More importantly, they are a platform for exchanging ideas and opinions of all those business stakeholders whose joint effort is crucial for further economic development, boosting entrepreneurship and advancing business environment in Serbia.
Dragoljub Damljanović, President of the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce
Continuation of structural reforms
1.The World Bank and IMF’s forecast for 2017 looks encouraging particularly in regard to Serbia’s GDP which is projected to grow by 3%. We are very closely tied to the European economy which has been successfully dealing with many challenges. I think that Serbia has been quite successful in responding to the demands and trends on the European market, and is increasingly positioning itself as the regional market leader. True, an average citizen might not yet feel the effects of this, but business community is very aware of positive trends in the Serbian economy which is stable. Additionally, FDIs are growing, private consumption is expected to grow too, and there are many important infrastructure projects that are going to be implemented. A positive business environment has been created which is something that is very important to foreign companies. Political stability and continuation of structural reforms, especially the reforms in public enterprises, will play a crucial role. Furthermore, opening and development of small and medium enterprises which are the driving force behind every successful economy should be encouraged more.
2.I think that, in a very short period of time, you have managed to become a very serious medium for the Serbian business community. Business publications like Diplomacy & Commerce have a great impact on promoting best business practices in Serbia and internationally. I am sure that many serious and successful managers are subscribed to your magazine, and I do hope that, in the future, there will be more such business publications in Serbia.
Dr Giorgio Marchegiani, President of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce
1.Sustainable economic growth and progress are expected, if we take into account that even the National Bank of Serbia predicts economic growth of 3% this year. The Government of the Republic of Serbia has to maintain the continuity of the high standards that it sets itself. The most important thing is for structural reforms to be completed quickly, because they have an impact on accelerating economic growth and increasing competitiveness on the market, and they are a very important sign for those already doing business in Serbia, especially for foreign investors, as well as better enforcement of laws and their compliance with bylaws. I would highlight the importance of improvements in the field of taxation, primarily the reform of the tax administration, as well as ensuring equal conditions for all participants in the business market. For everything that provides progress, foreign investors have placed their knowledge at the disposal to the state of Serbia, for the benefit of everyone.
2.Promoting successful business, pointing out potentials in the field of market economy in Serbia, as well as highlighting examples of foreign markets that you are thematically orientated towards – those are things that are, when it comes to the media, very important for all business players. Your contribution is important because this kind of promotion is necessary, especially in the circles that your readers occupy.
Yana Mikhailova, President of Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Regional Director of Nestlé Adriatic
Improving the business climate
- 2016 was a successful year for Serbia in terms of improving the business climate. Even though business conditions in Serbia are improving and the country is slowly emerging from recession, challenges are still present, as they are on every market. The growth of consumption is still weak in most market segments, while the inconsistent implementation of regulations is a challenge that makes the business environment more difficult. The Government has adopted a number of important legislative changes and thus enabled companies to adapt their business to economic circumstances. Nestlé, as well as other companies, needs to adapt to changes on the market and needs time for this process. Furthermore, the advantage of Serbia is reflected in its excellent geostrategic position and well developed frame of free trade agreements. However, in order to increase the number of new investors, Serbia needs to improve its investment climate and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, as well as becoming more attractive for small and medium-sized businesses. Moreover, improvements need to be continued in areas like fighting unemployment and the shadow economy, agriculture, education, health and public sectors, considering that these are priority topics for the country and further progress on its EU accession path.
- Magazines like Diplomacy & Commerce play an important role in providing fresh and accurate information about the Serbian economy and in promoting the existing business potential on the local market. I would particularly emphasise the importance of country-focused special editions, as they help highlight trends in economic relations between Serbian and its foreign trade partners. As these special editions contain interviews with representatives of both the public and private sectors, they contribute significantly to creating better understanding of the opportunities and challenges related to Serbia’s cooperation with its foreign partners. Ultimately, this could help bring about new solutions to existing challenges, or even initiate new business partnerships.
Georgios Papanastasiou, President of the Hellenic Business Association (HBA)
Strengthening economic ties
1.According to the World Bank’s forecast, Serbian economy is expected to grow by 3.5% compared in 2017 compared to last year’s 2.5%. This will be accomplished thanks to investments, while domestic consumption will have a bigger impact only in years to come. I would also like to underline that these are realistic expectations considering that the three important economic reforms have been implemented that pertain to issuing building permits, property registration, and simplification of starting a business. Still, it is necessary to continue with the implementation of other structural reforms, without delay. In terms of business environment, Serbia has been working on improving the conditions for local business communities, and the country should continue along this course, particularly in terms of improving its legislative framework, reforming the judiciary, complying with the EU regualtion and increasing the efficiency of state agencies. This, in turn, will make business environment more predictable for companies that wish to include Serbia in their operations, and lead to instigation of large-scale infrastructure projects, as well as further economic development and progress in Serbia. The Hellenic Business Association will certainly continue to give its contribution along this path through active lobbying on behalf of Serbia as an ideal destination for new Greek investments, and through strengthening economic ties between the two countries.
2.For a whole year now, Diplomacy & Commerce magazine has been informing us of new investments and other activities in the world of diplomacy, economy, business, culture, arts and sports through various reports, interviews, economic analyses and specialized publications. By doing so, the magazine is helping us to get to know Serbian social and business environment better, in addition to presenting and strengthening the ties between Serbian government, the diplomatic corps, foreign and local chambers of commerce, business associations, international and local institutions, organizations and business people from Serbia, the region and the world. By exchanging experiences and good practice cases among each other, all of these stakeholders should be credited for creating a picture about Serbia as a country that has a great potential and which has been constantly working on improving living and working conditions, as well as fostering social and economic development. I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate your magazine on its first birthday and wish you to continue with your enthusiasm and contribution to nurturing the links between all interested parties while presenting Serbia as a country that offers numerous possibilities.
Danijela Fišakov, President of the Slovenian Business Club (SBC)
Fighting corruption and shadow economy
1.Serbia doesn’t have a lot of choices. If the country wants to survive, it has advance. Its economic fabric is a part of the global organism, and as such, is sensitive to the changes that surround it. External influences are strong and they dictate trends on much stronger economies than Serbian. Serbian leadership and business community have to step up their activities that would result in the Serbian economic fabric becoming stronger, more immune and stable in crisis situations. The main and the most important activity in this respect is fighting corruption and shadow economy. The uprooting of both of these occurrences is not easy or simple. A truthful and principled attitude towards this fight always yields positive results, and even if the results are not visible this year, they will definitely have a long-term impact thanks to this approach.
2.Both the global and Serbian media space are bursting with opportunties for public expression of views and opinions, facts and information. The possibilities offered by the contemporary media are both fast and current. On the other hand, the traditional written word is more permanent and irrevocable. Diplomacy & Commerce magazine has succeeded in fusing all these possibilities. Their articles are up-to-date, interesting and diverse. In the magazine, readers can find interviews with all foreign ambassadors in the country, important foreign and domestic business people and representatives of Serbian state authorities while getting to know their opinions and views about important economic, business and other issues.
Erika Teoman-Brenner, Austrian Commercial Counsellor
SME sector for sustainable growth
- I am definitely sure that Serbia’s economy will continue to grow in 2017. We saw some substantial reforms in the business environment in recent years, which were welcomed by the business community. But there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to the rule of law and, more specifically, the transparency and length of administrative and regulatory procedures. For example, we hear regularly from our business community that tax administration often lacks a uniform and consistent application of regulations, which in turn creates uncertainty on the part of the companies. However, in more general terms, Serbia needs competitive and diversified local SMEs for sustainable growth. Only a strong SME sector provides for employment and growth through investments and consumption.
- Your magazine has been able to build up an impressive readership in its first year. This is not least due to the fact that it manages to cover a very wide range of topics, while at the same time being very focused on what makes Serbia special. For many readers from the diplomatic and business community, a magazine like yours offers unique insights into leading Serbian corporations and institutions.
Marija Radulović, President of the Croatian Business Club
Expansion of international cooperation
1.The Croatian Business Club is advocating international business cooperation, and I do hope that 2017 will be the year for expansion of international cooperation particularly with the countries in the region, and primarily between Serbia and Croatia. The purpose of our Club, which assembles business people from Serbia and Croatia, is to boost the cooperation first at the political, and then on economic level because there are huge economic opportunties on both sides.
2.Magazines like Diplomacy & Commerce are important for dissemination of good ideas because they have a big readership and credibility especially when we consider their dedication to presenting a country, its economy and opportunities in a special light. Apart from reporting about companies, the quality interviews in the magazine speak volumes about it. We do hope that you are going to continue with this good practice in the future too which will positively contribute to better cooperation and mutual relations.