Bosnia’s Prime Minister told the participants of the annual meeting of governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Sarajevo on Wednesday he hoped his country would be seen as a good investment opportunity, joining Suma Chakrabarti, EBRD President, in advocating economies which will create jobs for people at home.
“Welcome to a country of exceptional natural resources, hardworking and talented people and successful managers,” Denis Zvizdic said. Bosnia is a country “you will surely like, not only because of its beauty and the hospitality of its citizens but also as a recognisable place for exchanging innovative ideas and attractive investment projects, as well as numerous other business opportunities which will be presented to you during this conference,” he added.
Western Balkan leaders, including Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia Zoran Zaev attend the meeting and will discuss regional issues on Wednesday.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told the EBRD Sarajevo forum the regional countries should lead a constant dialogue on the most difficult and most complex issues.
“At more than 40 different sessions which will be organised throughout the next few days we will exchange precious experiences, knowledge and skills with our respected guests, renown and proven managers, businessmen, bankers, financial experts, those who were and are creators, directors and implementers of successful ideas, projects and companies,” Zvizdic said.
Those gathered will be discussing the best models for progressing the economy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkan region as well as reforms that would ensure a positive and more developed business environment. Participants will hear about practices which could improve the competitiveness in Bosnia’s private sector, regional capacities of natural and human resources, economic potential, he said.
"We all must pursue the same vision, be constructive and progressive, market-oriented and focused on the economy. I invite all of you to embrace that goal, " Chakrabarti told the EBRD forum participants.
Zvizdic said that yet another topic that should be tackled calling it “the key macroeconomic problem of the entire region” - the creation of new jobs for young people, so they stay in the country and the region instead of emigrating.
Bosnia made some “very significant progress”, and the country’s economic parameters show “continuous and positive economic growth and development,” a better economic situation overall and a higher level of quality and competitiveness of Bosnian products, he said.
The GDP was in 2018 above three per cent, as in the years before, and last year was the first time that it came close to 32 billion BAM, he said, adding that the country is exporting more and more.
He named the EU as Bosnia’s most important trading partner, saying that it is where more than 73 per cent of the country’s exports go. Specifically, Bosnia’s most important trading partners are “Germany, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia and Turkey,” he said.
The country set its record in direct foreign investment last year - 800 million BAM, which is about 50 per cent more than the year before and “that trend is continuing in 2019,” he said.
The EBRD has until now invested 2,3 billion Euro in Bosnia through 160 projects, “of which 82 per cent were investments in the infrastructure,” especially for building Bosnia’s part of the 5C Corridor. The EBRD invested 550 million Euro into the European route that connects Budapest with the Adriatic Sea.
Only last year the European bank invested some 200 million BAM into the country, significantly more than the year before - 130 million Euros. Zvizdic said he expects it will invest more than 300 million in 2019.
“Of course, our obligation and our firm commitment are to continue with economic and social reforms, improving the business environment, strengthening the rule of law and further stabilisation of political and social conditions, as we consider these key preconditions for further economic development,” Zvizdic said.
He stated that some of the results of Bosnia’s progress are visible in a World bank analysis which he said named Bosnia “as a country with the highest registered decrease of unemployment in the region last year,” while the service sector “registers the highest number of new job positions.”
But Bosnia cannot pursue the further needed reforms by itself, he said. “We need investments, especially in the sectors where we have strong potentials, we need a regional investment platform, rapid development and integration of new technologies and the development of the transport, energy and digital infrastructure.”
The EBRD was and remained one of the main factors in building up a stable and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prime Minister said.