Observation/What’s happening with the so called free economic zones in FYR Macedonia? How did their geographical map expand and why does the opposition consider their expansion as an attempt to gain electoral credit? The swarming of businesses in the capital and the modest numbers in other areas. Experts talk to IBNA and explain why free economic zones are attracting very few investors
Skopje, February 24, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Naser Pajaziti
The government of former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues with its project for Industrial Development Areas in several areas of the country, in order to offer conditions to foreign and domestic investors to open companies and production plants.
The government says that this project has managed to attract foreign investments and that the increase of production capacities has led to the employment of thousands of workers.
These areas known as “Free Economic Zones” are located in Skopje, Tetovo and Shtip, while others have been planned to open in seven other regions of the country.
The spokesman of the government, Aleksandar Gjeorgjievski warns the opening of another economic area in the region of Gostivar.
But, the opposition has considered these warnings as a pre electoral campaign by the main party in power, VMRO-DPMNE.
So far, only the economic zone of Skopje, known as Bunarxhik and located near the airport and Corridor 8 highway works at full capacity.
Meanwhile, other zones such as that in Tetovo and Shtip are in the phase of infrastructure.
The government is happy with the project for free economic zones
The government says that these zones are fruitful, because they are the best offer for foreign investors. Prime minister Nikola Gruevski considers government policies for the opening of free economic zones as positive.
“Part of our policies for economic development are investments and construction of industrial development and technological areas in different parts of the country, which we believe will find a significant number of investors. These areas will offer the necessary conditions to built new plants, which means new jobs”, says prime minister Nikola Gruevski.
The head of the Directorate for Industrial Development Zones, Victor Mizo says that these free economic zones are expecting to boost up employments and this has been proved in the economic zone of Skopje. Another important aspect are exports which will be made through these zones.
Experts: The zones are attracting very few investors
Experts on economic issues do not see the opening of free economic zones as a big success. University professor for economic issues, Slobodan Najdovski says that such zones are being used by the government for political marketing, rather than to open new jobs.
“Experience is showing that especially ahead of elections, the government announces new investments and the opening and promotion of free economic zones. I think that there must be a more practical approach and there must be more work than promises”, says Dr. Najdovski.
Executive director of Business Confederation, Mile Boskov says that it’s a good thing that companies have the appropriate conditions to invest and that this is in the best interest of the country and an opportunity to open new jobs.
“These economic zones have a positive effect on foreign investors. I believe that the effects will be felt in the long term”, says Boskov.
Economic chambers demand the deliberation of projects for investors
Economic chambers in the country have demanded from the government to deliberate the projects that relate to the opening of free economic zones.
The executive director of the Economic Chamber of Northwestern Macedonia, Arben Halili told IBNA that the government’s plan for foreign investments must be deliberated, in order to avoid great expenses for free economic zones, for the expensive promotions of these areas in front of foreign companies and other services which have brought no effects whatsoever for the improvement of the economic situation.
“The majority part of these free zones do not even meet the basic conditions to start concrete investments and the government in this case must explain the efficiency of these zones, which are great in number, but low in efficiency”, says Halili.
Citizens are skeptic, they don’t expect a lot
Citizens do not expect a lot from these free economic zones which are being promoted every year by the government. Fuat Mellova, a graduate in economics told IBNA that many free economic zones for foreign investors are being opened and promoted, at a time when there are no investors and when no new jobs are being opened.
“We have a massive propaganda for the opening of these areas, while we also have very few foreign companies which are interested to invest. We praise these incentives for free economic zones, but we would be happier if they were successful projects which would attract foreign investors. As unemployed graduates, we want new jobs to open, otherwise, our only alternative of survival is to go abroad”, says Fuat Mellova.
According to the data from the Central Bank, foreign investments in the country during 2013 have been around 160 million Euros. /ibna/