The Macedonian government has established 12 anti-crisis measures to lessen the effects of the European monetary crisis.
By Misko Taleski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 05/07/12
A key pillar of the plan would be to get more people working in agriculture, boosting production and reducing imports. [Reuters]
A dozen measures to be implemented over the course of the summer are expected to pack a punch for Macedonia's employment sector -- four of them alone are directed at creating up to 10,000 jobs.
"The measures are carefully selected and adequately projected at a time when there are cuts at some items in the budget. They are realistic and doable," Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said.
Macedonia has a workforce of about 950,000 people, but more than 30% are unemployed. Experts project that by implementing the anti-crisis programme, 8,000 people will be employed initially and an additional 2,000 later on, for which the government has secured 13m euros from the state budget.
"This is a combination of developmental and social measures. They are undertaken when the budget is being rebalanced, because that way they can be implemented [in a] timely [fashion]," Tome Nenovski, an economics professor at the American College in Skopje and former vice governor of Macedonia's National Bank, told SETimes.
"It is of particular importance for the funds to be applied quickly," Nenovski added.
Of the four jobs-creating measures, one targets employment at businesses opened with credits for self-employment and accrediting.
The second targets long-term employment in co-operation with municipalities for experienced workers over the age of 55.
The third would match 1,000 younger workers, up to the age of 27, with a prominent employer, but they will have to undergo training first.
The fourth measure would employ 1,000 to 1,500 people in agriculture. "The government will secure 850 hectares of state land in 24 regions for people who qualify. Assigning land will be done by using a point system via a public call," Gruevski said.
The Association of Farmers of Macedonia described this as a step in the right direction, as it will boost domestic food production and reduce imports.
"The winner will not only not pay rent, but during the first year will receive a 357-euro subsidy as assistance to start a family business," Veljo Tantarov, president of the association, told SETimes.
"The measures go counter to the defensive stand by governments which usually implement austerity measures and cuts here, including for development support. The Macedonian government is making an effort to find money for development support, that to the delight of the business community, will directly end up in businesses, agriculture and the economy as a whole," Nenovski told SETimes.
By comparison, 150m euros obtained from the European Investment Bank have been used by 712 companies that created 3,200 jobs. An additional 35m euros were used as turnover capital to help firms overcome economic difficulties in 25 municipalities.
Under the new plan, "By efficiently utilising the allocated budget funds, the number of created jobs can be doubled," Economy Minister Valjon Sarachini told SETimes.
Nearly 11m euros from the Macedonian Development Bank will be used to support firms that purchase, process and export agricultural products.
As of yet, no such anti-crisis measures have been undertaken elsewhere in the region, but experts say it is evident the EU crisis will force governments to seek direct solutions to reduce economic stagnation.
Serbia's Chamber of Commerce is preparing at present draft measures for the 2012-2016 period to send to the government for review.
"Investing in energy, agriculture, electronics, and infrastructure are key areas for economic growth and we must accentuate them," Milos Bugarin, president of the chamber, told Serbian media. Such measures would necessitate a new Labour Law in addition to lowering administrative barriers and required funds for employees.