Many US companies are already using opportunities that Serbia offers in the business sector. To date, they have invested almost $4 billion and created more than 17,000 jobs in the domestic economy. However, in order to attract more global players, the country has to work hard on boosting its potential.
One of the tasks is certainly related to creating a level playing field for all actors on the market, while equally important is to support domestic SMEs to interconnect, cooperate, and grow.
We spoke with Mrs Carolina Hidea, Economic Counsellor of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, about American engagement in helping Serbia achieve significant progress in both of these areas. Mrs Hidea emphasises that the U.S. Government wants to see a prosperous Serbia and is therefore committed to assisting its Serbian partners on their journey to building an advanced market economy.
What does the U.S. want to achieve in Serbia?
– The United States and Serbia have a strong relationship and a partnership across a broad range of issues, from economic development and investment to legal and defence cooperation. We want to see a strong and prosperous Serbia that is at peace with its neighbours and looking to the future.
We want to see a strong and prosperous Serbia that is at peace with its neighbours and looking to the future
Where do you see the potential for the growth and development of the Serbian economy?
– There are many areas of potential growth and development in the Serbian economy. With regard to production, I know studies have identified opportunities in manufacturing, food, wood and metal processing. The proficiency of Serbian engineers also means there are opportunities for technology-driven sectors. In services, Serbia has strong potential in the IT and tourism sectors.
We have been engaged with the Serbian government and private sector institutions to improve the legal and regulatory environment for growth led by the private sector. We see great potential for growth when we work with Serbian firms. It is important to remember that 99% of Serbian firms are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
For these companies to truly catalyse the sort of growth that can create jobs and spur sustainable economic development across Serbia, they need work more closely together to achieve economies of scale and ensure they can produce quality, quantity, and assure continuity to meet the needs of the market, both here in Serbia and in the wider region. They need to work with financial institutions to get the resources they need to grow. They need to work with research and development institutions to pilot and scale-up new products and processes so that they can compete on the market.
We will continue to work with our Serbian partners to strengthen connections between SMEs and service providers, as well as with financial and research and development institutions, so they can improve their cooperation and collaboration to take on the challenges Serbia faces in unlocking sustainable growth.
US companies have invested almost $4 billion since 2000 and currently employ around 17,000 people. They are good partners and job creators, and the jobs they offer are some of the most sought-after among Serbian workers
How would you assess the results of economic reforms in Serbia so far?
– Serbia is already seeing more interest from American and international companies that are ready to invest and create jobs here. We believe that this process will gain strength if Serbia continues on its successful reform path.
We are proud to be Serbia’s partner as it implements further economic reforms. The United States has provided nearly $1 billion in assistance to Serbia, a large portion of which has been dedicated to supporting the government’s efforts to develop strong economic institutions: flexible and fair labour laws, effective inspection regimes, a more effective judiciary, steps to bring businesses out of the grey economy, and legislation supporting individuals who are ready to stand up and put a spotlight on corruption and waste. We supported Serbia in its efforts to introduce electronic construction permits, which was a major factor in Serbia’s breakthrough into the top 50 countries on the World Bank’s “Doing Business” list last year.
Plenty remains to be done – economic and structural reforms, increasing private sector access to finance, public sector streamlining, healthcare and education reforms, further and more effective efforts to combat corruption, and building the civil society institutions that are the foundations of a strong and vibrant democracy. If Serbia is committed to this path, I am confident that foreign investment, including investment by U.S. firms, will continue to grow.
What can Serbia do to attract further investment from U.S. investors?
– More than anything else, investors want a stable and predictable business environment. This means a strong rule of law that ensures investors that if they follow the rules their operations will be able to run smoothly and profitably.
US companies already play an important role in Serbia. US companies have invested almost $4 billion since 2000 and currently employ around 17,000 people. American companies are good partners and job creators, and the jobs they offer are some of the most sought-after among Serbian workers.
American businesses often bring new technology, high labour and environmental standards, and good corporate practises. The success of these companies is important for Serbia’s future. Success stories and a transparent and welcoming business environment are the best marketing tools to attract more investors to Serbia.