Comment:

Put To The Test

At this moment Montenegro represents a rare example, if not the only example in the region, of a good student who consistently fulfils its Euro-Atlantic and European integration commitments. This reassures investors that the country is heading in the right direction, but also imposes an additional responsibility for Montenegrin policymakers to stay the course

Entry into NATO as a member is undoubtedly of historical significance for Montenegro. This is especially so if, like many analysts, NATO membership is seen as the entrance lobby to the European Union. This progress has been achieved under conditions of major external challenges. The Western Balkans has gone from a good European student to almost overnight turn once again into a turbulent area in which politicians easily lose their democratic orientation, in which elections lower the bar, while governments and parliaments dissolve before managing to leave any trace of their work on improving the institutional framework.

In addition to external challenges, Montenegro has no lack of internal ones either. Major infrastructure projects, which should ensure the country’s robust growth in the future, constitute a powerful counterweight to short-term development. That’s why the government has the difficult task of resolutely implementing fiscal stabilisation and not endangering growth factors that are primarily based on the inflow of foreign investment, and less on domestic economic resources.

Montenegro has approached these internal challenges with open eyes and a pre-prepared government policy, which aims to send domestic and foreign market players a signal that the business environment will remain stable and supportive.

Foreign investors assess that the Montenegrin economy is moving in the right direction and that the unfaltering commitment of the government to continuing with EU integration represents a pledge that the country is on the right track.

However, considerable room exists to improve the business climate. Bureaucracy and complicated procedures still burden investors, especially at the local level. For example, the progress achieved in building permit issuance, despite some progress, is insufficient. This has a major impact on investors who are focused to a great extent on tourism and investments in the construction of elite, highly sophisticated tourist facilities, changing the structure of the Montenegrin economy in favour of a more propulsive and highly profitable service sector.

Alongside the macroeconomic stability that the Montenegrin government intends to maintain with the measured management of fiscal stabilisation, investors impatiently await the new labour law and better educating of the workforce

Alongside the travel industry and energy, tourism represents the backbone of future economic growth. And that is not only in the more developed parts of Montenegro, but rather, thanks to transport links connecting the developed and underdeveloped parts of the country, also in its parts that have to date been less attractive to investors in tourism. This picture is now slowly changing, and the announced investments could contribute significantly to extending the length of the tourist season and, more importantly, ensure the balanced development of all parts of the country.

Montenegro is one of the few countries in the region that has not yet changed its labour law, which businesspeople consider as being too inflexible and not adapted to new business trends. The amending of this law has been announced for this year, while changes have been approached through consultation with all partners.

Likewise, Montenegro must do much more to make its workforce competitive and well educated for new occupations that are sought. And here a number of measures have been announced that have yet to produce results, if the country wants to exploit its potential and for all citizens of Montenegro to feel prosperity equally.

The Government of Montenegro, judging by the attitudes of the business community, fosters a high quality dialogue with representatives of business. NATO membership and EU integration are seen by business representatives as further proof that the country is committed to strengthening the rule of law and a functioning market economy as a condition for raising the competitiveness of the country as an investment destination. This is not only the greatest challenge for Montenegro, but also for all countries of the region, and is also the only path that promises economic prosperity for all citizens.