For the economy to keep turning despite the Covid-19 pandemic, institutions must try harder to find comprehensive rather than partial solutions to create better working conditions in 2021
For 13 years now, the Grey Book by NALED has been pushing the boundaries in the efforts to establish a predictable and favourable business environment in Serbia. Ensuring efficient procedures is one of the key steps toward the achievement of that aim. However, such victory cannot be achieved by an endless search for secret passages through the administrative system but by defining solutions everyone will be willing to implement.
Sometimes we refer to the Grey Book as the “regulatory Bible” the economy and public administration should always go back to. Truly, no such publication (and there are many that deal with issues related to the bureaucratic system) is that comprehensive. The success of the Grey Book lies in the fact that it does not aim to place all the responsibility on public administration expecting the decision-makers to take notice of and do something about the issues because that will never happen.
All the descriptions of the procedures to be eliminated or simplified consist of thorough lists of articles of various laws and regulations that complicate bureaucratic procedures. Also, all the unnecessary steps that must be taken and the expenses of such procedures are included, when applicable. The descriptions of identified issues are always accompanied by possible solutions, with clarifications on how the work and regulations of the public administration can be modified.
The Grey Book is a list of guidelines for relevant institutions, telling them how to do their work efficiently and which steps to take in order to reach the desired aims to the satisfaction of everyone involved.
The choice of the issues that could be included in the Grey Book is always very wide. Therefore, in each edition, we strive to select 100 procedures that would be the most useful in helping improve the circumstances in most sectors of the economy and enable significant savings in various business procedures.
In the previous 12 editions, there were 268 unique recommendations, out of which 72 have been completely solved, and 59 have been partially solved, which means that almost half of the recommendations have found their way to the legislators.
I would like to remind you that, in the previous years, the Grey Book has contributed to eliminating excessive administrative procedures, leading to the simplification of the process of obtaining construction permits and real estate rights registration, introduction of electronic taxation for flat rate entrepreneurs, simplified electronic procedures for the registration of seasonal workers, electronic tax certificates and electronic public procurement processes.
The list is long, but I would also like to remind you of the already improved procedures (some of which were improved as long as a decade ago). Nowadays, it’s even hard to remember how many issues we used to have. Some of the improvements are as follows: certificates can now be older than 6 months, and they no longer have to be submitted at counters; employment record booklets are no longer used; health cards are renewed automatically; procedures for the submission of financial reports have been simplified, as well as the procedures for mandatory daily takings deposit; simplified TIN obtainment, employee registration, payment of taxes and contributions, etc.
This year’s issue of the Grey Book (No 13) also contains 100 new recommendations. It differs from previous editions in that 15 of the recommendations have the Covid-19 badge. This is the result of NALED’s realisation that, in these trying times, the strategic priorities have, understandably, switched toward the most essential issues – the preservation of human lives and workplaces.
The Grey Book is a list of guidelines for relevant institutions, telling them how to do their work efficiently and which steps to take in order to reach the desired aims to the satisfaction of everyone involved
If we look back at the year behind us, we see that, despite pandemic circumstances, the reforms were not completely halted. In 2020, institutions managed to carry out 13 recommendations from the previous edition, out of which 2 were fully implemented and 11 were partially implemented. Although this is the usual score when it comes to the implementation of Grey Book recommendations in the previous 12 years, we are not completely satisfied. In order for the economy to remain functional in the difficult circumstances imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions must make greater efforts in finding comprehensive rather than partial solutions aimed at establishing better working conditions in 2021.
Cooperation is the key to success. It comes as no surprise that, year by year, the majority of the recommendations (almost a third) are directed at the Ministry of Finance (in the previous years, that number rose to 40%, but the sector in charge of finance has made numerous improvements in the last few years). They are immediately followed by the recommendations related to multiple sectors at the same time. Their implementation requires an inter-sectoral approach. We are faced with ever more complex reforms, so coordination and equal efforts by all institutions are key to achieving the maximum, particularly if we include comprehensive public-private dialogue in the process of coming up with solutions, in which public administrative bodies will consider the suggestions of those the procedures will be applied to, whether they come from the area of the economy or the civil sector.
The adoption of the majority of recommendations is the result of direct cooperation between the Government of Serbia, international institutions and NALED. We are very thankful to Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and the ministers for trusting us. We are confident that together we can work on the implementation of the Grey Book recommendations more efficiently to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic and boost the economy.
We are also very grateful to the European Union and the governments of Germany, Great Britain, Sweden and the USA, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and others whose donations proved them to be reliable partners in the development of Serbia year by year.
Finally, the Grey Book would not be the “regulatory Bible” if it was not backed by its true believers – the NALED members, who possess the energy and motivation to help us make Serbia a great place to live and work in.