On December 12, 2018 in the premises of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, in the presence of the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, ambassadors, businessmen and members of the foreign investors, the "White Book 2018" of the Foreign Investors Council was promoted.

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The "White Book 2018" is the most recognizable publication of the Council and has an objective to contribute to the promotion of the business climate in the country by offering constructive recommendations and opinions provided by the member companies.

- This year's edition includes a set of priorities of the economic policies from the point of view of the foreign investors, but it additionally offers proposals for facilitating the work in specific areas with the objective to stimulate more dynamic investment of the foreign capital in the country- stated Stefan Peter, President of the Foreign Investors Council.

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In the introductory part of the event President Peter talked about the contents of the "White Book 2018" emphasizing that the book is divided into several parts and key sectors in the interest of the foreign investments, as follows:

-  International and regional surrounding and overview of the situation in the Republic of Macedonia;
-  Analysis of the business climate and key sectors in the interest of the foreign investors;
- Assessment of the regulatory environment- Aspirations for joining NATO and the European Union;
-  Reports and ranking of the Republic of Macedonia by international institutions and bodies;
- More important projects of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia for foreseeable business environment, macroeconomic stability and support of the economic development.

 The ninth chapter of the edition contains the recommendations, proposals and opinions of the five working groups composed of companies- members of the Foreign Investors Council. The five working groups included the legal provisions in the field of: tax and finance, property regulations, human resources, administrative and legal affairs and occupational health and safety and environmental protection.

The President of the Foreign Investors Council Stefan Peter also stated that for the Macedonian economy to move in the right direction, it is necessary for the EU and NATO prospect of the country to be assured for which the Council offers its direct support. It will be the strongest guarantee that the economic development will continue with an accelerated pace. - The membership in EU and NATO will bring Macedonia positive prospects, especially for the business sector by establishing the European standards and easier access of the companies to the EU market- stated Peter.

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In his address Stefan Peter talked about the current economic state, stating that there are numerous challenges and problems stand in the way that should be solved and removed in the following period in the direction of the improvement of the business climate, the increase of the competitiveness, the reduction of the unemployment and achieving economic development and well-being of the citizens of Macedonia.

In that direction, the biggest part of the recommendations of the "White Book 2018" are focused on the improvement of the business climate and facilitation of the business, first and foremost by creating foreseeable business environment, more efficient administration, constraining the room for corruptive activities, reduction of the overall administrative procedures and legal burdens and restructuring of the education system in Macedonia with the objective for a high quality and professional workforce to be created. This is necessary if we want to have a foreseeable business environment with which the foreign investors would be attracted and would remain in the country. Furthermore, the President of the Council accentuated the need of greater inclusion of the business community in the process of the adoption of the legal regulation that in certain cases is a subject of fast and frequent changes with occasional consultation of all stakeholders that leads to certain implications o the work of the foreign investors in the country. At the end of his address, Stefan Peter, stated that with the publication of the "White Book 2018", the Foreign Investors Council strives towards becoming an active partner in the creation of better business environment in Macedonia and in the promotion of the conditions for investing the foreign capital in the country.

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In the other part of the event, at the panel discussion held within the event dedicated to current economic topics and issues related to the challenges of the Macedonian economy in the following period the following panelists took the floor: the Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, the President of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, Branko Azeski and the President of the Foreign Investors Council, Stefan Peter.

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, greeted the new edition of the "White Book 2018" stating that 2019 will be the year of the economy shown by the data about the growth achieved in 2018, which in the second quarter was 3,1%, then 3% in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter is expected for it to reach 3,5%. These indicators show that there is a huge perspective and hope for an economic growth of the country and in that direction changes in the legal regulations were initiated that should result in the reduction of the "gray" economy. - The political stability and the clarity for our integration, including the regional aspects for the growth of the trade exchange are the main contributors to the growth that has been achieved until now- stated the Prime Minister.

The President of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, Branko Azeski, stated on average it takes three years for one request of the real sector to be realized. He also repeated the stance that CEFTA is dead and the commitments to creating an additional growth to the economy should be directed towards reindustrialization and the increase of the exporting activities- things that the Economic Chamber of Macedonia presented in 2010 via the proposed Model for economic development that should support all companies that will create new jobs. In order for a long-term economic development to be assured, it is necessary for a public-private partnership agreement to be signed as well as a strong chamber system that will be put in the function of the real growth.

In the second part of the debate the accent was directed towards the lack of qualified workforce and the measures that they should be undertaken in the field of education and Stefan Peter talked about the need to restructure those 21,2% unemployed persons giving them a possibility to acquire professional knowledge and skills. Following the integration of Macedonia in the EU, we are aware that in the future the citizens of Macedonia will be available to a more competitive labor market, which, on one side is a threat to us who act and work here. But, if we try to start and provide prospects for these people, we will succeed in preserving them and in this way we will prevent the process with which other member states of the EU undoubtedly faced. We have already done that and in a year from now, in cooperation with SETUGS "Mihajlo Pupin" from Skopje, we will provide a staff of 30 electricians, who, after the completion of the secondary education, will be a qualified staff for the corresponding working place.

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The Prime Minister of Zaev stated that the focus of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and in the future the education will be in the focus, with a special attention paid to the secondary professional and higher education and by adopting the Law on internship will give the young people an opportunity to acquire the skills through practical works that they will further use for employment and the young people will stay here, which will mean generating of new labour force for the economy.

It is necessary for the perception of the companies to be changed regarding the dual education and that it can generate costs that are on the back of the businessmen on one side, but it is also necessary to restore the dignity of the professional schools. In the capacity of vice-president of the Chamber Investment Forum, Azeski announced the possibilities to apply for projects in the field of education between the countries of the Western Balkans that will be financed by the Governments of Germany, Japan and Austria.

In the last part of the event, the possibility of cooperation between the domestic companies and the foreign investors in Macedonia was mentioned. Mr Peter stated that the foreign investors in Macedonia, that are in fact 130 companies, are open for cooperation and procurement from domestic companies, but they have to show initiative and readiness to offer a product or service with the same or better quality than the ones offered by their current suppliers, and, of course, the local producers have the advantage of providing faster delivery of the product or the service, but they should also follow the other parameters that make them more competitive.

The objective of this "White Book 2018" remains the same as the one of the previous edition: to state the desirable changes with the aim to improve the conditions for doing business and to offer concrete proposals about how to improve them. It should serve as a basis for a constructive dialogue between the private sector and the authorities for overcoming the remaining obstacles for more intensive investments in the country.

Vlatko Stojanovski