Cyprus leads Forbes list of Balkan business environments


The island ranks in the world’s top 30 business environments, according to a recent review. In other business news: The IMF gives initial approval for a loan to Albania.

Women walk past a Bank of Cyprus branch in the capital, Nicosia. [AFP]

Cyprus ranks 27th, the highest ranking of all Balkan countries, in this year's global ranking by Forbes of the best countries for doing business. Macedonia is next at 36th, followed by Bulgaria, Montenegro, Croatia and Greece at 42nd, 44th, 45th and 46th. Romania and Turkey are at 51st and 57th, while Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovinia (BiH) are at 81st and 82nd. Serbia is at 86th of the 145 countries ranked. The ranking is based on 11 indicators including property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom, red tape, investor protection and stock market performance. Ireland, New Zealand and Hong Kong topped the rankings.


BiH and Kosovo have the highest unemployment in the Balkans, the Anadolu news agency reported. The share of jobless people in the two countries as of September this year stands at 44.8 in BiH and 35.1 in Kosovo. Unemployment rates are lowest in Romania and Turkey – 7.5 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively.


The Istanbul stock exchange, Istanbul Borsa, acquired 24.38 percent of the capital of the Montenegro Stock Exchange (MNSE). According to the official statement by the Turkish company, which also owns a stake in the stock exchange in Sarajevo, the partnership will further strengthen its efforts to establish a network of regional exchanges.


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given initial approval for a 300 million-euro loan to Albania. The funds will be used to support the country's economic recovery. Formal approval of the facility is expected early next year.


Work on the reconstruction of the 31 kilometre-long railway section connecting Kumanovo and Beljakovce in Macedonia will start in March. The section is the first of three sections that will connect Macedonia and Bulgaria as part of the Corridor 8 project.


The parliament of Cyprus approved the island's first budget after it received its 10-billion-euro international bailout aid package. The 2014 bill envisions 10 percent spending cuts from last year in line with the bailout targets. Net expenditures amount to 5.59 billion euros.


The minimum wage in Croatia will increase to 395 euros starting from January 1st 2014. The increase of some 4 euros is in line with the current state of the economy and the ratio between the minimum and average pay in the country, the government said.


Eurozone finance ministers approved a 1-billion-euro aid payment for Greece. The tranche, which is part of the country's 240 billion-euro bailout package, was disbursed after Athens' progress in reforming its economy.


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Greece will partially lift protection for distressed mortgages in an effort to protect its banks from the increasing number of bad loans. The existing freeze on repossessions will be extended through 2014, but only for properties costing up to 200,000 euros and for households with net annual incomes of less than 35,000 euros.


Macedonia and BiH signed a memorandum of co-operation in their efforts to further boost and deepen joint activities in taking advantage of EU financial support for agriculture and rural development. The two countries agreed to exchange experience and organise joint meetings, conferences and seminars on EU fund management.

(Various sources: 18/12/2013-23/12/2013)

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