Foreign Investors Council in Serbia (FIC), as an organization acting in favor of interests of foreign investors establishing their businesses in Serbia, issues a report every year listing all the recommendations of the private sector to the public authorities that could remove unnecessary barriers and problems in the business functioning. Issued regularly since 2003, the “White book” tries to tackle all the possible issues that would make doing business in Serbia easier and more flexible.
The 2016 “White book” edition lists all the prominent sectors where changes have been enacted in the most efficient way, as well as the sectors that should be in the scope of Serbian authorities and subject to the necessary reform in the next year. Thus, sectors such as State Aid, Competition Law, Telecommunications or Energy, more precisely fossil fuels, represent the areas where best results have been achieved during the past period. On the contrary, sectors such as taxes, foreign exchange transactions, and the role and position of whistleblowers in the Serbian society need to be improved and therefore, put in the center of attention of Serbian authorities in the future period.
Measures recommended by FIC revolve mainly around the reform of actual Serbian legislation, continued work on the EU accession process, and modernization of infrastructure in Serbia. However, such crucial changes demand a synchronized response from all members of the Serbian society, and, therefore, Serbian authorities decided to react and act as the catalyst of change in the Serbian business environment.
Namely, the newly organized Working group will be in charge of implementation of recommendations embodied in the 2016 “White book” edition. The importance of such decision is demonstrated by the fact that the Working group is presided by the Prime Minister and will encompass Ministers in charge of crucial Ministries in the field of economy, finance, labor, infrastructure, construction and transport etc. Their main task will be to improve the general business climate in Serbia and to attract future investors. Besides, the most important issues will be duly analyzed by custom made expert groups which will include experts from relevant fields who will try to incorporate knowledge and information from other successful countries and implement such solutions in Serbia.
The goal of such move of the Serbian authorities is to reach the level of at least 50% of implemented “White book” recommendations. So far, Serbian public authorities managed to respond to over 30% of problems raised by foreign investors. It is envisaged that such organization will enable the creation of better results, and consequently a better investment climate in Serbia.
It still remains to be seen whether this act will be just another ballast in the already burdened Serbian bureaucratic authorities, or if it will be a proper response to the ongoing problem that is the modernization and development of Serbian economy. The public authorities justified this move by citing the results of the 2016 annual report of the World Bank “Doing business” according to which Serbia gained some positive marks. However, it is only prompt and adequate solutions that will truly lead to a better tomorrow.
By Milan Samardzic, Partner, and Katarina Grga, Associate, SOG / Samardzic, Oreski & Grbovic