The new foreign investments and upgraded transportation infrastructure will help the country's EU integration, experts say.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times from Skopje -- 27/01/14
Macedonia Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (second from left) opens the technological-industrial zone in Shtip. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
Macedonia declared 2014 is a year of new investments and infrastructure projects that will ensure sustainable growth and reduce unemployment.
"At least 20 new foreign companies unofficially confirmed they will begin constructing facilities in Macedonia, and more are thinking on taking the same decision. They will create thousands of new jobs in information technology, agriculture, textile, metallurgy and the automobile industry," said Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
Among the new arrivals is the German electronic switches producer Marquardt Group that will build a factory in Veles creating 600 jobs.
Grueski said equally important is the fact that foreign companies already present in Macedonia have had positive experiences and are expanding their production facilities.
Last year, electronics companies Johnson Controls and Johnson Matthey opened their second factories. This year, the Russian pharmaceuticals giant Protekt Group announced it will build a second production facility in April as will Tehnohoze, the Italian producer of reinforced rubber hoses.
Officials said Macedonia's economic strategy allows municipalities to become strong economic players and ensure equitable development throughout the country.
The government is establishing technology and industrial zones in many municipalities, which offer investors low or no taxes, significantly low land prices, and other production-related benefits.
"Johnson Controls plans to open 700 jobs in 2014 [in the existing facility] and more than 1,500 jobs in the new factory. A Croatian firm has announced it will open a new factory to produce construction materials. We are currently negotiating with a Turkish factory [to invest in Shtip]," Dragan Ristov, spokesperson for Shtip municipality told SETimes.
At a time of crisis and austerity in the Balkans, Macedonia is reducing taxes while increasing salaries and pensions by 5 percent this year, MP Aleksandar Nikolovski said.
"These are measures that will have a positive impact on the economic well-being of citizens, and, in turn, on Macedonia's readiness for integration in the EU. If we start EU negotiations tomorrow, we can complete them in four years," Nikolovski told SETimes.
Officials said another part of the country's economic strategy is to implement infrastructure projects.
The government announced the construction of two hydro-power plants in Lukovo Pole and Boshkov Most, a railroad to Bulgaria, a highway connecting Skopje with Shtip and another connecting Ohrid and Kicevo.
In all, more than 100 local and regional roads will be built, engaging the entire Macedonian construction and related sectors.
Implementing the infrastructure projects will allow sustainable economic development and economic growth, Mile Janakieski, transport and communications minister, said.
"Especially upgrading roads to the level of highways will bring a higher level of social and economic benefits," Janakieski told SETimes.
Transportation infrastructure is one of the key elements investors ask for, and securing modern infrastructure increases Macedonia's worth in the EU integration process, said Vladimir Bozinovski, analyst at the Institute for Political Research in Skopje.
"It is much easier to integrate a state with a solid infrastructure. By upgrading infrastructure, Macedonia will attract more investment and at the same time will get closer to [the EU]," Bozinovski told SETimes.
Analysts said the announced economic activities show economic development and EU-related reforms continue to be a priority for Macedonia.
"The economic policy has so far produced good results and should continue not the least because it will positively influence Macedonia's aspiration for EU and NATO membership," Samoil Malceski, former economics professor at the St. Paul the Apostle University in Ohrid, told SETimes.
What should Macedonia to do to further increase investment and activities that enhance economic growth? Share your opinion in the comments section.