Vele Samak, Minister of Foreign Investment, discusses Macedonia’s investment appeal.
European Times: What are some recent FDI trends in Macedonia?
Vele Samak: Macedonia is steadily increasing its competitive advantages and we are seeing more and more investors who would rather stick with a safe investment destination like Macedonia instead of one with many risks. Recent success stories include two of Macedonia’s biggest foreign investments to date. One is the Dräxlmaier group, which has 4,500 employees and will add 1,500 more as they ramp up Mercedes Class C production, and the other is Johnson-Matthey, which just opened a second plant here in a €130 million investment set to achieve €1 billion in exports. Earlier in 2013 a German automotive and electronics company invested €35 million and created 600 jobs in a new project in Macedonia, the biggest German investment here to date. The automotive and electronics sectors have attracted the most investment thanks to low cost margins and high profits. Other sectors drawing FDI are real estate, tourism, agriculture, medical products, construction materials and textiles.
European Times: Why should investors choose Macedonia?
Vele Samak: As a small country in population and area, we compensate by maintaining a very high level of services and a very business-friendly environment. We raised our World Bank Doing Business ranking to 25th in 2013, a big improvement over 2012. We are among the top 10 reformers in 2013, ahead of more than 20 EU countries. Macedonia has low taxes and continues to improve the business climate, including implementing a new electronic system for construction permits, customs, registering taxes and other business functions. While joining the EU will have a positive effect on the Macedonian economy and there are some specific things that will become easier, from a business perspective the fact that we have not yet joined the EU has not been a road block.
European Times: How are local companies responding to FDI?
Vele Samak: More and more local companies, particularly SMEs, are getting involved in FDI projects. Foreign companies prefer local suppliers for infrastructure projects, for example, so our construction and logistics companies have really benefited. Local sourcing by foreign companies in Macedonia is around €5 million to €10 million per year.
European Times: What is your personal message to potential investors?
Vele Samak: The bottom line is that Macedonia provides the most competitive and stable regime in Europe in both costs and ease of doing business.