Skopje, 18th February 2015 (MIA) – the Economic  Chamber of Macedonia marked its 93rd anniversary on Wednesday  in Skopje by holding a General Assembly of the Association of the Balkan Chambers of Commerce (ABC), awarding prizes to the most successful ones and signing Cooperation Agreement with the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB)  for establishing Macedonian-Turkish Working Committee for promoting the economic cooperation and intensifying the trade between both countries.

– The chamber system worldwide has managed to withstand all pressures and threats for 400 years, while the Economic Chamber of Macedonia has endured for 93 years, solving big number of issues the organization and its members face on daily basis.  This year, the Economic Chamber is chairing ABC, an institution that at today’s General Assembly in Skopje has decided, in the period to come, to give priority to the acceleration of the flow of goods and services along Corridors 8 and 10, which are under intensive construction. This is very significant since it can sometimes be much more serious obstacle than their incompletion, the President of the Economic Chamber Branko Azeski said during his address.

He pointed the very Economic Chamber will be headquarters of the two consortiums that will work on improving the flow of goods and services along Corridors 8 and 10 in the coming years, being of crucial significance for this region.

He announced that this May, the Economic Chambers will organize a Conference in Ohrid that will bring together the biggest 200 business leaders in the Balkans, where  emphasis will be put on the railways as a possibility to increase the passability of Corridors 8 and 10.  

– At the end of last year, we launched an initiative for declaring 2015 as the year of competitiveness, which has been embraced by the Government of the Republic of Macedonia. A year, when many activities will be undertaken and many open issues will be resolved is to follow, which will help us leave the privatization and transition-related processes behind us for good and thus focus on reducing the costs which, as an input, lead to higher prices and lower the competitiveness. This means that we will face a year of strenuous and tough negotiations about our every single Denar and Euro or Dollar on the foreign markets, a struggle which will mean survival of Macedonian economy in conditions in which the domestic market is too narrow so as for us to be able to realize our goals and ambitions, Azeski said.  

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Zoran Stavreski said that 93 years of existence is an exceptional and significant anniversary.

– Republic of Macedonia is successfully dealing with the challenges, and in the past period, along with Turkey and Ireland, we experienced the highest growth in Europe, amounting to almost 4%.  We expect for the growth to continue in the next years as well.  If the developments in Europe stabilize and if at least slightly higher growth is realized, Macedonian economy will be able to generate growth rates between 4% and 4.5%, which will help in resuming the positive trends as regards unemployment reduction and enhancing the competitiveness of companies, Stavreski said.

He also stressed that the Government provides unreserved support so as for the competitiveness to be set as a priority in 2015, as well as for a longer period of time.

– Competitiveness of both the economy and the companies is a broad concept requiring significant reforms and an open dialogue with all involved parties contributing to its improvement and enhancement.  In the past years as well, the Government along with the chambers, worked on enhancing  Macedonian economy.  We saw that in crisis situation, achieving highest possible growth on the short run is not most significantly but it is rather making Macedonian economy more competitive and capable to generate high economic growth rates in the medium and long run.  This means as many companies as possible to become more competitive and to export, Stavreski explained.

Competitiveness, as he stressed, mean improvement of infrastructure, i.e. improvement of the road and railway transportation corridors.

– Corridors 8 and 10 are our priority.  The novelty is that the Government is holding advanced negotiations with the World Bank about the financing of Corridor 8 section from Rankovce towards the border with Bulgaria.  We expect for the World Bank to approve this project in autumn, so that a completely new road from Rankovce to Kriva Palanka will be financed in the first phase, followed by reconstruction of the road from Kriva Palanka to the border with Bulgaria in the second phase, and intensification of the construction of the railroad tracks towards Bulgaria.  At the same time, the project documentation for the railroad trucks from Kicevo towards Lin in Albania is in the process of preparation. The financing of this project is discussed with the European institutions, in particular with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank, as soon as the documentation and all necessary studies are completed, Stavreski underlined.  

He pointed out that competitiveness also means investments in human capital and education. Thus, we will continue to allocate significant amount of budget funds for improving the quality of the educational personnel coming from the faculties and the secondary schools so they can have the knowledge and skills the business sector requires.  I promise that Macedonia, as so far, will remain a country with the highest level of price and cost competitiveness, i.e. lowest taxes in the world, coupled by the fact that the current effective tax rate of 7.4% is lowest in the world, Stavreski said, adding that they, as a Government, will remain a steady partner to the business community.

Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, TOBB President, Eurochambers Vice-President and ABC Board Member, said that the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, did an extraordinary job in the past period in terms of cherishing the economic relations with the ABC countries.

– Macedonian economy, despite the crisis, has continued to experience growth, while Macedonian export potential has become attractive for foreign investors, Hisarcıklıoğlu said.

He stressed that the Eurozone may experience even deeper drop this year, adding that 45 million workers in OECD region became unemployed.  

– One third of the unemployment in OECD region is caused by structural reasons, meaning that it cannot be resolved without undertaking reforms on the labour market ABC countries are related to European markets and affected by the crisis in Europe, due to which we should handle all challenges so as to achieve sustainable economic growth. What our region needs despite further investments in the transport infrastructure is improvement of both the logistics and the quality of labour force. Additional trade liberalization and removal of trade barriers is also necessary, Hisarcıklıoğlu said.  

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