Successfully investing in Serbia

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last updated on 22 June 2022 | reading time approx. 3 minutes

 

 

 

How do you assess the current economic situation in Serbia?

Apart from heavy losses of lives during Pandemic (18 percent more than in other countries), it seems that Serbia had a very small recession in 2020 and good growth especially in 2021 and the Serbian economy started to show signs of recovery.[1]
 
There were high hopes for 2022 but than came the war between Russia and Ukraine. Forecast of GDP growth went down from a previous forecast of 4.4 percent and now is projected to slow to 3.2 percent in 2022.
 
Inflation rise is officially declared 7.9 percent, while prices of basic consumption articles such as food and communal services are likely to accelerate further, following  increases in global food and energy prices. The 
Statistical Office of Serbia, informed that the unemployment rate in Serbia increased to 10.60 percent in the first quarter of 2022 from 9.80 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021. Although, this is not tragic news, it still provides reasons for alarm.
 
However, from personal point of view – seems that IT services are growing,  especially with injection of Russian and Ukrainian IT experts who decided to settle here, need for artisans of any profile is still high.  

 

How would you describe the investment climate in Serbia? Which sectors hold great potential?

According to the US Department of State report about Serbia: “The Serbian government has identified eco­no­mic growth and job creation as top priorities and has committed to resolving several long-standing issues rela­ted to consolidating market-driven capitalism. The government has passed significant reforms to labor law, construction permitting, inspections, public procurement, and privatization that have helped improve the busi­ness environment. Companies and officials have noted that the adoption of reforms has sometimes outpaced thorough implementation of these reforms. Digitizing certain functions (e.g., construction permitting, tax ad­mi­nis­tration, e-signatures, and removing the previously ubiquitous requirement for ink stamps) has not yet brought a dramatic improvement in processing times and may not be consistently implemented.

If the government delivers on promised reforms during its EU accession process, business opportunities will likely continue to grow in the coming years. Sectors that stand to benefit include agriculture and agro-pro­cessing, solid waste management, sewage, environmental protection, information and communications techno­logy (ICT), renewable energy, health care, mining, and manufacturing.”

This report reflects the real situation in Serbia, as many of the administrative issues are now based on e-services, which includes submission of VAT, other taxes as well that invoicing is almost completely digitalizing. 

 

What challenges does a German entrepreneur face when engaging in Serbia?

In business it seems that German companies are working together with Chinese companies in several indus­tries and regions in Serbia. As example, in the Western Serbia (in the city of Loznica) Chinese investor is buil­ding a factory of batteries in which several huge German companies took part. Also, several companies from EU are working to the main Russian investment in Serbia – Gazprom owned Oil Industry of Serbia.

Therefore, there are so much possibilities and there will be jobs for everyone. On the other hand, speaking about Employers and employment, German companies are preferred as employer in relationship with Chinese or Russian companies.

To conclude, apart from political differences, which are huge, from business side there is joint approach in doing business in Serbia.

 

Germany is Serbia's most important trading partner worldwide. Russia and China also have their eyes on Serbia. What does this mean for German engagement?

There is proverb in Serbia, “first come, first served”. However, there is big problem to determine who came first. Is it first Germany whose miners gave the strength to the medieval kingdom of Serbia, and which knights did the core of the armored force? Or it was Russians, with whom Serbs shares the religious and cultural con­nec­tions and without help from them there would be no independent Serbia in 19th century? In reality in Serbia, there are many people who can have all. Most of the families nowadays have some member in Germany or in other countries of EU, but there are too many who did work in Russia and get enough to send youngsters to the Germany/EU.

We do not see any problems as we are doing business. In business it seems that German companies are working together with Chinese companies in several industries and regions in Serbia. 
 

In your opinion, how will Serbia develop?

Serbia is harmonizing her legislation with EU legislation. However, in 2021 no new Chapters were open and that will be the same in 2022. Plans made by Serbian government for Serbia to become a member of the EU by 2025 while still maintaining strong ties with Russia and China seem tio have failed when the first news about conflict in Ukraine came.
 
Another plan, creation of the Zone of Free Trade between former Yugoslav Republics which are not in EU and Albania, is growing slow but steadily.
 
In general, Serbia will develop towards the EU even in case the membership is far away. 



[1] Source: World Bank review

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