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Dragan Penezić, Co-president Of The FIC Anti-illicit Trade & Food Committee (British American Tobacco SEE d.o.o. Beograd)

Positive Results Are Clearly Visible

Despite the negative external factors, it is clearly visible that activities have continued around institutionally improving conditions for doing business in Serbia and advancing the country’s system for controlling illicit trade

Crisis situations have become a reality of life and doing business during this decade. Following two very difficult COVID years, the world is confronted by a global crisis caused by military conflict. Traditional supply chains have been broken and new alternatives are being sought in a situation that sees us facing a coming energy crisis. This all reflects negatively on the legal operations of businesses, while those engaged in illicit trade adapt swiftly to the new situation and find ways to continue their illegal activities.

The negative impact of the grey economy is perhaps hitting the entire economy even harder today – outpourings of funds into illegal flows prevent many countries from realising their social and development plans and needs, while market participants are also confronted by unfair competition, alongside unplanned increases in costs and reduced resources.

Despite the negative external factors, it is clearly visible that activities have continued around institutionally improving conditions for doing business in Serbia and advancing the country’s system for controlling illicit trade. The Government of Serbia has kept the fight against illicit trade at the top of its priorities, and has accordingly drafted the National Programme for Combating the Grey Economy for the 2022-2025 period without delay. FIC member companies provided a full contribution to this strategic planning with concrete ideas and recommendations.

The systemic approach to combating illicit trade, with the digitalisation of procedures and specific activities on the ground, provide a clear contribution to achieving positive results. The reform of inspection oversight is certainly among the activities that increase the quality and efficacy of the work of inspection services.

It is more important than ever to have a regional approach and cooperation in resolving issues related to the combating of illicit trade and the facilitating of legal operations. The companies gathered together in the FIC are ready, as always, for all forms of engagement on that front

A predictable and efficient tax procedure is one of the key components in combating illicit trade. The Law on Fiscalization and the Law on Electronic Invoicing – which introduced the use of modern technologies with the aim of digitising the recording of turnover, electronic exchanges of invoices and simpler and more efficient controls by state authorities – contribute to positive impacts on suppressing illicit trade.

In addition to all improvements, FIC member companies also take every opportunity to highlight areas that must be advanced to ensure the results achieved are sustainable over the longer term.

It is firstly essential to establish institutions that have a full mandate and capacity, in order for the decisions that they make to be considered valid and obligatory for all.

The additional strengthening of inspection oversight (alongside the securing of an adequate number of new inspectors and essential equipment), judges’ specialisation in economic violations, as well as unburdening the economy fiscally and administratively, could be categorised as the basic goals that the FIC will continue to insist on pursuing.

Measures applied in the area of policy on excise goods – primarily tobacco, petroleum derivatives and coffee – are among the most sensitive. That’s why it’s essential to coordinate the work of state services, alongside continuous cooperation with responsible businesses and the educating of citizens, which will ensure the raising of awareness and contribute to additional strengthening of public finances.

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