More business, better business

May 15, 2013 8:54 AM

 

SarajevoTimes is the only BiH news portal who got the honour to publish column of Special Representative of the EU in BiH Peter Sørensen

 

PETER SORENSEN I-1Since I took up my duties in Bosnia and Herzegovina, more than a year and a half ago, I have been encouraged by the “can-do” attitude of certain sections of the community. I don’t find enough of this attitude among politicians, but I do find it among businesspeople. They are clear that unless the BiH authorities take practical, determined and immediate steps to implement long overdue economic reforms, small and medium sized enterprises  (SMEs) will not be able to generate jobs on a large and sustainable scale. BiH will not be able to start generating a measure of prosperity through increased exports. And the chance of real economic integration in Europe might be lost.

For the EU, it is very important for BiH to encourage business start-ups, which have been in constant decline over the past few years.  This is incredibly important for all of BiH, as small and medium sized enterprises (up to 250 employees) make up 99% of the BiH business sector. But reports show that it currently takes an average of 40 days to start a new business in BiH, and involves 12 separate administrative procedures. It is possible to do better: in some parts of the country it takes one day for issuance of an urbanism permit, a couple of days for a construction permit, hours for amending registrations of companies.

In the meantime, for many potential investors, the complicated procedures in the majority of BiH tells them that they should invest their funds elsewhere instead. And that feeling is reconfirmed by the statistic that places BiH at the bottom of the ladder as the poorest performer in the region when it comes to the ease of doing business. According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business Report”, BiH is ranked 125th out of 183 economies. The weakest link in this report refers to the ease of “starting a business”, which places BiH even lower, into the 162nd place.  If this problem was addressed, the level of unemployment could be drastically reduced.

In recent months, and especially at the Mostar Economic Fair, I have talked to many entrepreneurs and business people wanting to hear their ideas and views on how best the EU could assist the country – since we are investing more than 100 mln. EUR per year into knowledge transfer, infrastructure, BiH institutions and structural reforms. They all tell me they want their governments to bring about changes to the business environment, to have a single economic space in BiH, to have regulation that works for them, to have transparent taxing practices and fair competition.

If the authorities in BiH are to show they are serious about creating the conditions for new jobs and rising prosperity, they will need to tackle the difficult structural reforms that other countries aspiring to join the EU have also faced. That is why I call upon all BiH leaders to consider what a single economic space will bring to Bosnia and Herzegovina.  What it really means. A single economic space means a domestic market in BiH that has enough consumers to sustain commercial and industrial growth.

Without the investment that a single economic space can attract, there is little hope that the small and medium-sized enterprise sector – which can generate an economic renaissance in BiH – will take off. SMEs need a sizeable domestic market and they need investment – a fractured BiH economy provides neither.

For make no mistake, jobs and the economy are the people’s top priorities.

By Peter Sørensen

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  • It looks like the EUSR is out of the country, since I haven’t seen him in the media lately. Wonder what will happen when summer vacation starts.

    And a suggestion: EUSR could finance a start-up competition like in Serbia, since Bosnian government is not capable. Find 10 perspective ideas, finance them for a year and one will work out.

    It doesn’t have to bring millions but it will do a lot for youngsters motivation.

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