Q: What makes Macedonia an attractive place for FDI?
A: Although we’re a small nation, we’ve worked very hard in the last few years to create a good business climate with a specialised young workforce. For example, we give investors a tax break for a period of 10 years, including corporate and personal income tax. Additionally, there are some benefits during the initial stages of FDI projects – we can subsidise up to €1m for construction costs at the beginning.
Although the average net salary in Macedonia is €400, we are working to specialise our workforce and not just promote it as a [source of] low-cost labour. More than 4% of GDP goes into education. We are investing in a dual programme, where students have the opportunity to work and study. We are also creating specialised programmes for investors: our universities and faculties are very flexible in working closely with investors.
Q: Which sectors would you like to see more investment in?
A: Besides manufacturing, we are also looking at IT because we have very experienced young people who are doing well in this sector. We have very skilled IT engineers, and a senior engineer in Macedonia is four times less expensive than in the US. We have lots of incubators within the universities where students will have an opportunity to have start-up companies with government help.
Q: Where would you like to see more investment come from?
A: Our main focus is on the EU and the US, bearing in mind that Macedonia is on its path to EU integration. We have free trade agreements with EU countries. Our recent investors are mainly from the European countries and from the US, mainly in the automotive industry because it is labour intensive. But we are trying to attract investors who also bring know-how and technology to Macedonia. Any good investor with a good business plan is welcome and will be supported as if it were a local company. We treat them all as Macedonian companies.
Q: How do you promote a small country on the world stage?
A: In terms of the strategy, we have organised business events and business forums. That is why I am participating in Dubai’s Annual Investment Meeting to promote my country and to have the chance to discuss the opportunities we offer. Sometimes it helps to be a small country because you can control things easily. You can meet high-ranking officials within one or two days.
Q: What is holding back more FDI in Macedonia?
A: Regional politics is very important, bearing in mind we are a small market. We have already started to work very closely with our neighbours in order to have a bigger market, because the companies that are coming to Macedonia are mainly coming to manufacture, to produce and to export regionally. Besides the difficulty we find in corruption, we are on the European path. Investors will not have any problems because our legislation is mainly harmonised with EU.
Q: When do you think you will join the EU?
A: We have a small dispute with Greece regarding the name ‘Macedonia’. We have fulfilled all the obligations of Nato but we cannot become a member because Greece has put up a veto.