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PM Gruevski: Comprehensive reforms are the key to positive growth

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The European companies that are present in Macedonia contribute to improving the overall working quality by introducing new technologies and knowledge as well as new management practices and more effective corporate organization, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said at an event marking the tenth anniversary of the European Business Association (EBA).

He urged EBA members and all other companies to invest their potential to successfully connect and use the business cooperation opportunities enabled by the presence of a growing number of foreign companies in Macedonia.

“The government will continue to work on meeting the standards in all spheres and applying European laws in practice. Our persistent efforts for Macedonia’s integration into the EU and NATO ensure assurance for foreign investors regarding political stability, quality of the institutions and development of democratic processes and economic development. Macedonia is continuously maintaining macroeconomic stability with low inflation, balanced public finances, with a sustainable level of budgetary deficit and a low to moderate public debt suggesting that the economic policies have been adequately designed,” Gruevski noted.

This has contributed the country to successfully deal with the challenges stemming from the global economic crisis and debt crisis in Europe, according to him.

“In the midst of a crisis, Macedonia had managed to achieve relatively high growth rates compared with countries in the EU and the region, with the exception of 2009 and 2012 – the most crisis-hit years when a minimum decrease in the economy was registered. The government’s policy to support the economy through capital infrastructural projects and by attracting foreign direct investments plays an important role in achieving positive growth,” the PM said adding that Macedonia in the first half of 2014 had registered the second biggest growth in Europe. It is important to note, he said, that all sectors are marking growth, especially the industry and exports rising by 16.2%.

“Exports from the industrial development zones stand at 950 million euros being almost 30% of the total amount of exports from the country.”

PM Gruevski stated that comprehensive reforms aimed at improving the business climate in Macedonia played a key role enabling the country with a total tax rate of 7.4% to top the 2015 Doing Business report in terms of offering the lowest tax burden to businesses.

“The EU is Macedonia’s biggest trade partner and in 2013 66.6% of the total foreign trade exchange was registered with EU countries. It rose to 69.4% from January to September this year – 77.2% of total exports are with EU countries. At the same time, as much as 85% of the total foreign investments in Macedonia come from EU countries. It is expected this trend to be resumed in the coming period,” stressed Gruevski.

One of the key objectives in the coming period, he added, is to encourage as many local companies as possible to join the chain of suppliers of foreign companies investing in the industrial zones or beyond.

“Thus, the potentials of these companies will be used and more new jobs will be created,” said Gruevski emphasizing the government had provided support through several measures.

He said that Macedonia’s business climate had been recognized by several European investors by opening plants or by deciding to invest in additional production capacities.

“The government in an open and transparent manner will provide all the necessary conditions to all interested domestic and foreign investors in an effort to realize their investment projects. We are still open for cooperation with the business community in this regard,” pledged PM Gruevski.

EBA President Grigor Bisev said the association represented the companies founded by mother-companies in the EU having a long tradition and long-term economic interests in Macedonia.

“The investors and companies coming from the EU play a vital role in Macedonia. We are one of the best ambassadors in promoting Macedonia outside its borders and in attracting investors and promoting working values and standards that will contribute to prompt economic integration of Macedonia into the EU,” said Bisev.

EBA has an excellent cooperation with trade unions and government bodies and is seen as a positive example, according to him.

“It is in everyone’s interest to have stable economic environment and swift access to markets because most of the services and products are sold abroad. We also need effective and stable institutions – it is in the interest of EBA members and all other companies in Macedonia,” stated Bisev.

Deputy PM and Finance Minister Zoran Stavreski said the drop of Europe’s economic growth was a challenge for Macedonia after being highly integrated with the European economy.

“Macedonia’s economy is still demonstrating that it is resistant and we have registered a good growth this year. The two main pillars of growth are fiscal stimulations through the implementation of different infrastructural projects and export stimulated by the companies in the free economic zones and to a certain extent by the domestic companies as well,” said Stavreski.

The government, he pledged, will continue investing in new roads, railroad tracks, investments in the energy infrastructure, completion of the gas network… On the other hand, we need to keep investing in human capital, because we want to make the workforce more attractive for companies,” the Deputy PM noted.

EU Ambassador Aivo Orav said EBA had been turned into a respectable organization protecting the interests of investors and local companies while also fostering close business ties with EU countries.

“EBA is continuously working to draw the attention on the concrete needs of European businessmen,” Orav said adding the government evidently remained committed to growth and development of the private sector.

According to the recent EC progress report on Macedonia, the country is registering a constant progress in the field of economy, he noted.

“I’m convinced the government in the coming period will do its best to correct the remarks in the report. By doing so, it will attract more investments, open more jobs and opportunities for local companies to export their goods, which is significant not only for you, but also for us,” concluded Orav.