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Applications for the LEADER Project 2019 are Now Open!

May 6, 2019 8:00 am

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Applications for the LEADER Project 2019 are Now Open!

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Experience the best business education in Macedonia that money can’t buy!

Macedonia2025 announces an open call for the LEADER Project for the 12th time, which this year will take place from 6 May – 17 May in Skopje. The Ivey School of Business has been organizing the LEADER Project since 1991. This free-of-charge program is an MBA-styled, ten-day workshop that empowers entrepreneurs to develop local business solutions that create opportunities for their communities.

Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to develop their analytical and decision-making skills, as well as their overall business acumen. Additionally, these entrepreneurs can work closely with LEADER Project instructors to turn an idea into a viable business or to make novelties in the working of their already established companies. Whether entrepreneurs are looking to start a new business or grow their existing business, LEADER Project will bring them much closer to the realization of their goals!

Key Benefits

  • Each instructor coaches multiple entrepreneurs on real business problems ranging from finance, marketing, strategy and growth;
  • Each participant during the training will identify a key business problem or obstacle they hope to solve with the tools they learn throughout the LEADER Project;
  • Participants gain many skills that did not have before in: marketing, communication and leadership.

Who should apply?

  • Entrepreneurs;
  • Managers;
  • Company owners;
  • Young professionals who are passionate about bringing their business idea to life.

Date and Location  

The LEADER Project will take place from 6 May – 17 May.

Lectures will be held every working day from 12 pm to 4 pm in Skopje. The exact lecture venue will be additionally announced.

Please bear in mind that only participants who attend a minimum of 8 days of the training, will be awarded with the official Leader Project Certificate.

How to apply?

To apply please provide the following items to

  • Fillable PDF application form, which can be downloaded HERE.
  • Biography of up to 200 words
  • Color photo  

The deadline for submitting your application is 10 April 2019.

*Macedonia2025 will award scholarships with value of USD 500, only to the applicants who will have the best business ideas or already own a start-up company. Depending on the quality of the applications received, the number of scholarships may differ from the number of participants in previous years.

Macedonia 2025 Announces New Chief Executive Officer and Chair

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Celebrates 10 years of doing work for the country

Skopje (February 13, 2019) – Macedonia 2025 announces today exciting changes to its senior leadership team as it moves into its second decade as a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on helping build Macedonia into a stronger nation. The first decade has ended with a great success. Since 2008, we have invested $1 million in leadership programs and through our programs we have affected more than 500 entrepreneurs and managers. We have also implemented a number of economic development programs with a total value of $3 million, such as export development programs, trade missions, business conferences, etc. Our flagship event – the Macedonia2025 Summit has gathered 2500+ attendees and more than 400 speakers over the years, thus becoming the largest platform for networking and inspiring cooperation for future growth of businesses in Macedonia and the region. We enter the second decade with high ambition and expectations, which is reflected in the today’s staff announcement.

The organization is announcing the hiring of its first Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Professor Nikica Mojsoska Blazevski’s effective start date is February 12, 2019 as the first CEO of the organization. Nikica has a combined experience in academia and public administration, as researcher, consultant and manager, so she brings significant experience to scale the programs that the current staff is working on for the organization. “I am very excited and privileged to take on this important function and continue to build upon what has been put in place to date. I firmly believe in the mission of the organization and I am committed to drive significant impact through our programs and initiatives and make Macedonia a prosperous and thriving country for its citizens. I am also very pleased with how engaged and motivated the board of the organization is and supportive of my plan to drive significant growth for the organization in the next decade. I also look forward to engaging all other Macedonia2025 stakeholders and partners to help us in successful execution of the plan,” stated Mrs. Mojsoska Blazevski.

Furthermore, after eight years of relentlessly and diligently working towards the mission of building a stronger nation, the current Executive Director, Biljana Markovic Stamenova, is leaving behind a number of well-executed programs/events and a solid ground for future developments of the organization.

Additionally, after four years as Chairman and two years as Vice Chairman, Robert Arsov, who will remain a director on the board, will be succeeded by Vera Stavroff. Mrs. Stavroff is President and CEO of HerbalScience, Inc., based in Columbus, Ohio USA and has been a Board Member since 2012. “I would like to thank Robert for his leadership as Chairman over the past four years. I’m also excited to become the fourth Chair of the board of directors, having served as Vice Chair over the past two years, and look forward to working with Nikica towards building even bigger organization and driving significant impact in Macedonia. There is so much more we want and need to do, to help the country, that we are so pleased we found someone of Nikica’s experience to lead our organization for the long term”, said Mrs. Stavroff. “I also want to thank Biljana who has been a star for the organization and together with the team had done a great job in positioning the organization as one of the most recognizable brands in Macedonia and the region.”

About Macedonia2025

Macedonia2025 is an international, independent, nonpartisan, non-profit “think & do” tank. We remain dedicated to our mission of helping create a prosperous economic climate in the country and a “stronger nation” that will improve opportunities for citizens, companies and foreign investors. We promote sustainable economic growth through fostering competitiveness, entrepreneurship, innovation and value-based leadership.


For more information, please contact:

Address: St. Luj Paster No.1 – 2
Office # +389.2.3161.015

Executive Development at Kellogg School of Management – An Experience of a Lifetime

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I had the privilege to be awarded with the Zafirovski Executive Development Program scholarship and complete a three-week training at one of the top management schools in the world. The Executive Development Program at Kellogg School of Management – Northwestern University has exceed my expectations in many ways.

A perfectly balanced blend of topics for senior executives taught by top-class professors and experienced CEOs of successful companies, working in small groups on specific tasks, great reading materials… The lectures were not purely theoretic, but real-world cases. In the marketing simulation we saw the implications of a good decision in the wrong time, and how it can be turned into a success story. The Program Manager did a great job keeping the pace, reminding us on our homework and genuinely facilitating getting the maximum of the program.

It was great networking with 24 professionals from all around the world (Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Panama, Macedonia, Canada and USA). We felt what cross-cultural collaboration really looks like. As the program progressed, we bonded together. We discussed real-life issues of real companies. It was amazing to be immersed in an environment of executives from different backgrounds, who are yet aligned with their interests and aspirations.

Having completed the Executive Development Program at Kellogg School of Management, I feel empowered for acquiring “special set of tools” that I can use to handle new challenges in my professional life. The lessons learned, the relationships built and the shared experiences will stay with me for a lifetime.

Great thanks to Macedonia2025 and Titan Cement for making the Kellogg experience possible!

Testimonial by: Goce Cvetkoski, Technical Director, Titan Cement

An Experience of a Lifetime that Helped me Improve my Leadership Effectiveness

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I would like to thank Macedonia 2025 for the opportunity to participate in a world-class program at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

I have attended the three-week Executive Development Program in June 2019. We have been accommodated and working for two weeks at the Northwestern campus in Evanston, while during the third week we have moved to downtown Chicago, in an energizing environment – living, learning and working together with a group of amazing people from all around the world. The teaching was done by top-class professors that worked passionately, striking a good balance between theory and practice.

The program equipped me with a very diverse knowledge that will help me improve and increase my expertise in different fields.

The curriculum covered fields necessary for the role of General Manager, with lectures and business case studies in accounting, finance, operations, marketing and strategy.

The program gave me insights on how to enhance my leadership effectiveness, as one of the most important aspects for the future growth of the organizations I lead, including topics like decision making, negotiation, team building and networking.

I have also gone through personal leadership coaching sessions with a professor, which helped me further develop my leadership strategy.

During the stay I have developed friendships and connections with my peers that will last a lifetime!

Testimonial by: Darko Adjiev, General Manager, Makweld DOO – Skopje, Macedonia

Македонија2025 организира панел-дискусија за зајакнување на женското претприемништво

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Меѓународната невладина организација Македонија2025, со особено задоволство Ве поканува на панел-дискусијата насловена „Жени-претприемачи и канадски експерти: Менторство, развој и одржливост“, која ќе се одржи во DoubleTree by Hilton – Скопје, на 31-ви јануари, од 11:00 до 13:00 часот.

„На настанот присутните ќе дискутираат за искуствата и најдобрите практики поврзани со женското претприемништво во Канада и Македонија, најголемите предизвици со кои се соочуваат македонските жени-претприемачи, но и за нивната соработка со назначените ментори од Канадската организација за извршни услуги – CESO SACO, во насока на засилени организациски капацитети и поголема самоодржливост.“ – велат организаторите.

Меѓу клучните говорници на панел-дискусијата, со гордост ги најавуваме: Н.Е. Кати Чаба – Амбасадор на Канада во Србија, Македонија и Црна Гора; Џенифер Лавуа – Советник на CESO SACO од Канада, како и претставнички на неколку реномирани женски организации од Македонија.

Панел-дискусијата се организира во рамки на проектот финансиран од Канадскиот фонд за локални иницијативи, поддржан од Амбасадата на Канада во Република Македонија, а во насока на зајакнување на женското претприемништво и родовата еднаквост во Македонија.

Настанот е од отворен карактер и сите заинтересирани за темата може да присуствуваат.

Marta Arsovska Tomovska: Reflection on my Kellogg’s AMP Journey

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In October this year I enrolled the Advanced Management Program at KelloggThe school’s reputation (MBA program ranked 1 or 2 in the world by The Economist) and the program description were interesting enough to catch my attention.

The truth is, and I couldn’t imagine, not in my wildest dreams that it will be not only interesting, but a life changing experience. My expectations from the program were that I will be able to check my practical management competencies acquired throughout my 22 years professional career, against management competencies described in theory. But it wasn’t about that. Not even close. It was much, much more.

Let me start from the beginning – the AMP content. I don’t know if that was the intention of the program designers, but for me the program was intended to develop us in three different dimensions: Analog, Digital and Formative. When I say Analog I mean “traditional management skills but on advanced levels” – covering topics such as managing teams, organizations, business cycles, finances, marketing, crises, communication and media relations, after action reviews, boards, M&A, etc. By Digital I mean “skills for digital times” – learning about innovation strategies, the future of innovation, leading innovation from the C-suite, big data & analytics, social networks, artificial intelligence, customer centricity, marketing in a digital world, design thinking, data visualization, etc. And finally, by Formative I mean “mental and physical shaping for leadership roles” – such as vision, purpose, focused growth, critical thinking, executive judgment, mind persuasion, decision making, negotiations, value-based leadership, leadership lessons and career paths, how to become the best, how to inspire, how to tell stories, leader as a coach, self-reflection techniques, resilience (both mental and physical), how to avoid burnout, etc. With about 30% of the time dedicated to the development of each of the three dimensions, I found the AMP content perfectly balanced. Let me explain why. As a prerequisite, we, the participants have to be experienced managers already, so there was no need to aquire, but only to advance our traditional management skills (and that is the Analog dimension); as we were middle-aged professionals, we needed to better understand the future trends and digital transformation challenges of our organizations (the Digital dimension); and finally, as during our careers we were focused on our day-to-day management activities, we needed some time to reflect on what was behind us and where are we now, so we can be able to see clearly what should we aim for in the future (the Formative dimension).

Not only was the content, AMP was superior in the terms of the quality of the teaching staff, the learning approach and the facilitation of discussions among the participants. Big portion of the 30 group learning units were taught by prominent clinical professors. These remarkable individuals came from CEO roles in billion-dollar companies, partners at top VC firms and top-ranked military officers. Their practical knowledge, their humility and willingness to share their personal stories, successes and failures, helped us to get to the essence of leadership. At the same time, the classes taught by tenured professors were also unconventional – it was all about immersion, interaction, case studies, simulations and role playing. We were shifting through different worlds, from corporate setting on the Wall Street, through a Tokyo earthquake, to Mt Everest Summit. In the same time, we were analyzing Tolstoy, acting in a play and conducting a real symphony orchestra. It was like big kids playing serious games and learning. Just phenomenal!

Besides the group learning approach, I found the individual approach as another important aspect of the program. Peer Coaching, Executive Coaching, sessions with a psychologist, abundance of self-reflection and personality tests such as KF 360 Feedback, AJIL and NTR Cultural Values were extremely valuable for addressing our personal strengths and weaknesses and sketching our future career paths.

From the organizational point of view, the program was flawless. Accommodation, classrooms, logistics, meals, site visits (such as Chicago’s 1871 and United Center), sports and entertainment activities (group yoga, bowling competitions, karaoke, ice hockey game visit, clubs and restaurant nights, lake walks, as well as some small elements of surprise) were just perfectly organized and synchronized.

These social activities combined with three weeks of intensive collaborative classwork leaded to another, equally important gain from the program. And that was the strong bond between the participants and making friends for life. We were learning from each other, experiencing cultural differences and values across five continents; we were celebrating, laughing and crying together, literally. And when I say “us” I mean also our Academic Directors and our Program Manager.

So to summarize – AMP was a world-class education combined with purification of our minds through reflection and contemplation, intended to prepare us for future leadership roles. Furthermore, AMP proved to be instrumental as a powerful lifetime support platform. As a result of the alliances we made, we are now helping each other overcome personal and work-related challenges. Imagine this: one of us has an important meeting or issue to solve. Immediately, the remaining CEOs from the class start assisting him/her – coaching, advising and sending solutions. It is like many CEOs work as one.

My engineering mind thinks of AMP as a process where we were disassembled into pieces – that were cleaned and broken ones replaced – then assembled again and new software installed. This newly assembled, high-power engine was than connected to a huge knowledge database – no subscription fees involved! J

It felt like 10 years ago when I visited Japan for the first time. For me, Japan was a newly discovered, innovative planet and ever since then, I was telling my friends that visiting Japan is a must in one’s lifetime. Now the list is extended. AMP is a must for anyone with a growth mindset.

Being away just about the same amount of time as we spent together, I dedicate this reflection to my dear friends: Darlene, Karla, Ick Soo, Don, SJ, Won-chul, Michael, Christian, Adrian, Andrew, Jaime, Axel, Nori, Djole, Marshall, Diana, Fred, Bob, Kate, Naini, Jane and all the Kellogg’s professors. Special thanks to Zafirovski Executive Education Program, Mike, Ana, Robert, Biljana and the remaining Macedonia2025 team.

Fired up, ready to go!

N.B. Fired up, ready to go, just accidentally became our class mantra and has nothing to do with politics whatsoever.

Unique Program for Intensive Leadership Development Experience – Toronto Executive Study Tour

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Thanks to Macedonia 2025, I was one of the students selected for a 5-day senior leadership certificate program called “Leadership Competencies: What Senior Managers Need to Know”, taking place at the Schulich School of Business. In addition to offering an outstanding faculty, applied learning, and a wide range of diverse participants, what I also found useful was the one-week job-shadowing in successful companies in Canada, such as AMJ Campbell and Weston Foods – Production Company, which all contributed to enriching my overall experience.

Schulich School of Business who runs the course “Leadership Competencies: What Senior Managers Need to Know”, has created executive education programs that meet the professional development goals not only of high potential managers primed for career advancement, but also of seasoned executives seeking new insight into today’s complex challenges.

The broad-based programs incorporate simulations, experiential activities and case studies from Canada, USA and Europe, which help participants realize their full potential. Topics include coaching and mentoring skills for organizational growth, leading innovation, developing talent and empowering people, inspiring collaboration and teamwork, mastering the art and science of negotiation and leveraging financial data analytics for better decision making. In this executive course, we had the opportunity to meet experienced instructors such as Beppino Pasquali who has a unique-presenting style, which makes financial concepts easy to understand; Joseph Sherren – an excellent speaker with great experience who gave us deep understanding of the concepts of leadership, coaching and mentoring with a lot of practical examples and approaches, as well as other distinguished professors who presented us with very useful insights on globalization, innovation, corporate governance, strategic thinking, problem solving and others.

This unique program provides an intensive leadership development experience designed to help us become a more self-reflective and more effective leader. Through an in-depth exploration of self-awareness, self-management, mindset, feedback, influence, judgment, character, resilience and guidance from experienced instructors, we developed the proficiency needed to propel our career and our companies in Macedonia forward. In addition to refining our personal leadership practices, we developed our own personal action plan for maximizing our impact in the companies in Macedonia.

The action learning sessions at Schulich School of Business and the job-shadowing in the Canadian companies provided “takeaways” for handling day-to-day leadership challenges, which will help our managers transform Macedonian companies into being more competitive on the global market and also for building a stronger future for Macedonia.

For me, people are the most valuable asset, and we must keep them energized, engaged and motivated.

This program gave us many tools to use and I highly recommend it to all Macedonian leaders who are looking for tools to inspire their teams to that next level of performance!

You’ll leave prepared and motivated to guide your organization through major change efforts, with a fresh perspective, thus becoming a “change champion” on your return to the company in Macedonia.

The Voice of the Business Sector is Female

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2019 will be the year of unification of the private sector and equalization of its voice, say the three interlocutors for Kapital, the executive directors of business chambers in the country: Diana Despodov from the American Chamber of Commerce – AmCham, Anita Nikova-Bundovski from the Chamber of ICT sector MASIT and Biljana Markovic-Stamenova from Macedonia 2025. They say that a big step forward in the cooperation between the chambers of commerce has already been made and that trend will continue this year and grow because, according to them, the entire private sector is united and together they locate the challenges and everyday obstacles in the process of their work.

Diana Despodov, CEO, AmCham
“It’s high time to start moving the economy forward by creating real value and growth, rather than relying on subsidies that do not motivate entrepreneurs and don’t inspire growth and development. We need a more aggressive growth and serious reforms in the economic system. ”

Anita Nikova – Bundovski, Executive Director, MASIT
“The government never presented any solutions for dealing with the grey economy, and their statistics show that Macedonia’s grey economy is estimated around 30% of GDP. In conditions like this, when we have non-transparent adoption of key regulations for the business sector, we expect further increase of the grey economy which is detrimental to the private sector as it leads to unfair competition. ”

Biljana Markovic – Stamenova, Executive Director, Macedonia 2025
“We are often in contact with representatives of companies from abroad who have made connection  through economic promoters or members of the diaspora and want to invest in our country. The past two years we’ve seen a negative trend of inadequate communication and position of state institutions and officials towards foreign investments. Some of the foreign investors, mainly from the smart industries, have already left the country. ”

The pre-announced economic year has started, and with it the economic opportunities and challenges that await us. To find out how the business sector is preparing for the economy in 2019 and what economic parameters are important for the development of the economy and improvement of the overall social situation, we invited representatives of several chambers of commerce and business associations to discuss the topic of the Macedonia’s economy.

On the other side of the table are three speakers of the business sector: Anita Nikova-Bundovski, from MASIT, Chamber of the ICT sector, Diana Despodov, from the American Chamber of Commerce – AmCham and Biljana Markovic-Stamenova from Macedonia 2025, whose organizations already jointly act as representatives of the private sector.

The ladies radiate enthusiasm and energy since the early days of 2019. They are ready to take the bull by the horns and fight for better cross-sectoral dialogue in order to promote the economic climate in Macedonia.

Unanimous and united, together representing hundreds of companies from the Macedonian economy that employ thousands of citizens, in a constructive manner of true leaders they shared with us their views on the parameters that determine the extent to which we will live the announced economic year.

Throughout the conversation they say that the business community does not expect an economic year, but a year of uncertainties regarding the legislative changes affecting the business.

“The business sector is a locomotive that drives the economy and in order to be able to operate at full steam, it is necessary to have an environment that is characterized by predictability, equal rules of the game, the rule of law, transparency and the elimination of the grey economy,” says Diana Despodov, executive director of AmCham.

“We do not criticize politicians, but policies,” she says, “because politicians come and go, but policies remain and affect the economy for decades,” she adds.

Unlike the huge announcement for the economic year, their attitude is more cautious and aware that the parameters left behind will greatly affect the development of the economic system in the year that has just begun.

“This year Macedonia’s growth rate was between 2.8 and 3.2%. According to the World Bank analysis, if the GDP growth is 5% Macedonia will reach the EU standard in 30 years, and if the GDP growth is 10% we will reach the standard in 15 years. From this it is clear that we need a more aggressive growth and serious reforms in the economic system, “replied Diana Despodov, analyzing the realized economic growth of Macedonia.

According to her, it’s high time to start moving the economy forward by creating real value and growth, rather than relying on subsidies that do not motivate entrepreneurs and don’t inspire growth and development. Anita Nikova-Bundovski from MASIT, added that we should think about a knowledge-based economy and have more planned approach in the programming of regulations and reforms. This, she said, is something that is currently lacking in the business community in Macedonia, both domestic and foreign.

“They do not consult the business community regarding key regulations and this is a constant practice”

Contrary to the government’s claims that each regulation is carried through a transparent public debate, our three interlocutors say that “the business community is not sufficiently esteemed,” stating that the trend has not changed for years, including the past year, and as they say, several laws have been developed without prior and proper consultation with the business sector.

The manner of adopting the legislation should be changed and the planned changes announced in a timely manner, at least one year in advance, “says Nikova-Bundovski.

“When progressive tax was introduced in Croatia, the changes were announced five years in advance and all factors in the society – the administration, the private sector and the citizens had time to consult and adjust to the new regulation,” adds Despodov.

The lack of predictability in the regulation leads to uncertainty in the private sector that results in reduced investment and increased attention that does not inspire growth and development, say the ladies.

Our interlocutors say that when the increased administrative burdens are added, as well as the lack of a strategy to attract additional foreign investment, we are facing a business climate that stagnates and discourages.

Biljana Markovic-Stamenova from the organization Macedonia 2025 says: “In order to hope that 2019 will be an economic year, I think we need to learn the mistakes that were made in the economic plan in the past two years.”

“We are often in contact with representatives of companies from abroad who have made connection through economic promoters or members of the diaspora and want to invest in our country. The past two years we’ve seen a negative trend of inadequate communication and position of state institutions and officials towards potential foreign investments. During the pre-election campaign it was like they “demonized” foreign investors, who bring benefits to the state through stimulating the economy and additionally contribute through new technologies, knowledge transfer, paying taxes, developing skills among employees, etc., which the state should take into consideration “, commented Markovic-Stamenova, referring to the treatment towards the foreign companies in our country, which, as our interlocutors agree, are a big and serious factor in the Macedonian economy and at the same time they promote our country to their foreign trade partners.

Our interlocutors say that they are constantly receiving complaints from foreign companies who mostly complain that in key economic positions are assigned to people who do not have the capacity to lead those sectors. By conveying the experiences from their communication with foreign companies operating in our country or are interested in investing here, they conclude that without suitable people, key economic policies can not be implemented, nor could the existing investments by foreign companies be retained in the long run.

“On the other hand, Macedonia has too many ministers and government institutions working in the sphere of attracting foreign investments, which further complicates the work in terms of providing adequate services for the existing ones, as well as the process of realizing new investments,” notes Markovic – Stamenova. “During this year’s Macedonia2025 Summit, speaker Andrew Wrobel of the magazine “Emerging Europe” noted that some of the potential investors in Macedonia are confused because they do not know exactly who should they address in the government, and received a bad impression when different government bodies began to openly argue over who should help and be responsible for them.”

Still disappointed with the way in which the new Personal Income Tax Law was adopted, the representatives of the three chambers remained unanimous in their view that although they asked to be involved in the adoption of those key regulations for the private sector and offered expertise and resources for careful devising of the economic policies, they state that their claims and remarks were ignored.

“As an example, the public discussion for the draft law on personal income was scheduled only after the draft law was submitted to Parliament and the social actors reacted to the lack of public debate. This shows us that they didn’t want to hear the feedback of the private sector. Additionally, claims were made that the private sector does not want to pay taxes, which is ironic when it is considered that the state budget is mostly filled by the fees from the private sector, where salaries and contributions are higher, contrary to the state administration that discharges the budget or civil society organizations that are not a significant economic factor. We just wanted extra time and analysis to make a meaningful tax reform and develop a tax strategy that will really be progressive and will match the local circumstances and the level of economic development. What we now have is not a progressive tax, but a flat tax with two rates. For example, why don’t they abolish the personal income tax for those who take a minimum wage? If the goal was to have some social equalization, why don’t we increase the rate up to 25% for those who take, let’s say, 5.000 Euros? Currently, those who earn 12.000 denars and those who earn 90.000 denars have the same tax rate. I don’t see progressiveness here, do you?”, asks Diana Despodov.

Biljana Markovic – Stamenova reacts to the attitude of public servants towards foreign investors and offered information for several companies that have dislocated their headquarters from Macedonia as a result of inadequate policies and measures.

“The retroactive VAT payment made several of these foreign companies to leave the country. These were companies from smart industries. They were ordered to pay retroactive VAT on their export invoices, for the last 5 years”, disclosed Markovic-Stamenova.

“Several Macedonian companies have announced that as a result of the changed tax rates, they will transfer their operational activities to Bulgaria and Estonia,” she adds.

“The perception is distorted for both domestic and foreign investors”

Anita Nikova from MASIT, comments on the lack of government strategy for economic growth. “The government never presented any solutions for dealing with the grey economy, and their statistics show that Macedonia’s grey economy is estimated around 30% of GDP. In conditions like this, we expect further increase of the grey economy which is detrimental to the private sector as it leads to unfair competition”, says Nikova-Bundovski.

According to her, the Macedonian authorities have no strategy to approach foreign companies around world and present investment opportunities. We do not have documents and promotional materials, she says.

“We are not promoting our country anywhere, we have four ministers for attracting foreign investments, I do not know who they are or what are their names. The fact that someone who works on this subject does not know who are those ministers is defeating”, comments Nikova-Bundovski.

“Do we have priority industries? Did anyone asked us what kind of investments are needed for our industries? Because we know exactly what every industry needs, “she added.

Diana Despodov adds to the subject, emphasizing that there is no strategy for the bitter problem of lack of staff, as well, both professional and unskilled. “The strategies of the Employment Agency for re qualification and further qualification are not based on the real needs of the labor market, perhaps because the business community is not consulted when these strategies and policies are adopted”, said Despodov.

With the same passion as before, our interlocutors continue to comment on the challenges in doing business in our country, such as the gray economy, corruption, as well as the imposed bad attitude towards the business community, and as they say, the distorted perception for the foreign investors, who, according to their impression, are notorious as exploiters and usurpers.

“We have 10 investors from the diaspora who gave up on investment. Instead of focusing on economic development and attracting new investors, we are focusing on extracting as much money as possible from those who are here”, says Biljana Markovic-Stamenova.

Referring to the behavioral parameters for the development of entrepreneurship in Macedonia as a key trend in the development of the economy in any country, Despodov says that “it is almost impossible to encourage entrepreneurship in a country where,” as she said, “people have no vision of the future beyond the next election cycle, and at the same time a country in which public administration is still the largest employer.”

“As long as people are hoping for employment in the public administration, the development of entrepreneurship will not reach a satisfactory level. In a situation like this, where people are still eagerly waiting for a job in public administration, even if we attract big companies who will work in those companies? I have spoken with companies that currently have 250 free places that they can not fill. Let’s not deceive ourselves, what we lack is not just programmers. What we lack are machine fitters, welders, elevator installers, etc.”, comments AmCam CEO, Despodov.

The topic of the brain drain from Macedonia is all the more painful for the Macedonian economy, whose development depends mostly on the professional staff that’s diminishing. In this conversation, we also reflected on the emigration of young people, and according to our interlocutors, this leads to a growing struggle for the survival of the private sector.

The first to point this out was Despodov, who says: “The private sector must understand that the biggest resource is their employees and they have to invest in them. Not only in terms of higher salaries, but also in terms of their development by providing professional training, additional qualifications, creating a pleasant work environment in which the employee will work satisfactorily and productively, with minimum stress. ”

Adding to her reply, she says: “In order for the private sector to relax and start investing in its employees, it needs foresight, stability, the rule of law, it needs a grey economy so small that it is almost imperceptible, it needs loyal competition, transparency, absence of corruption.

Anita Nikova-Bundovski from MASIT followed this issue, where, as an example, she mentioned the IT sector, who constantly works with foreign partners. “For that cooperation to be in continuity,” she says, “we are constantly finding ways to invest in the development of human and company certificates.” In addition to her response, Nikova raised the issue of the willingness of the Macedonian managers, as well as the investment in knowledge by the domestic companies.

“The competition should not always be the only thing that challenges us to invest in our staff. We need to take an extra step in the development of the mentality, and education of people in managerial positions. These certificates are a guarantee for foreign companies. The country you come from doesn’t promise anything, but the company’s certification and human capacities are a serious assurance”, added Nikova-Bundovski.

“This country and its prosperity are more important to us than any politician or political party”

During the conversation, we asked our interlocutors about their views and suggestions on how to increase the cooperation between foreign and domestic companies. Namely for the cooperation between domestic businesses and foreign companies, because economic indicators say that it is unsatisfactory, resulting in a very small trade.

“It’s absolutely true,” says Despodov, “that there is very small cooperation between foreign investments and domestic companies as suppliers. But, “she continues,” it is presented to the public that the foreign companies are to blame, that they apparently do not want to cooperate with domestic companies.

From my experience and conversations with companies, I’ll say that there is much more interest among the foreign companies to work with domestic ones. However, they often encounter problems such as lack of standards and certificates from domestic companies, and the domestic entrepreneurs are unwilling to invest in their own businesses and obtain the necessary certifications that foreign companies are requesting. Macedonian companies love their comfort zone and status quo and are not willing to invest either money or labor to bring the standards to a level where they can serve as suppliers to foreign companies. It is also problematic that domestic companies often fail to meet the delivery deadlines and other terms of the agreement. So, we have a two-way problem here. Firstly, the foreign companies should make a bigger effort to identify the domestic companies that are willing to invest and increase their standards, but on the other hand domestic companies need to show a little more interest to develop to the extent that will allow them to serve as suppliers of foreign companies”, explained AmCham’s Executive Director.

We brought the conversation to its end, although the enthusiasm and the passion that glued ​​us on this chairs, seated across each other, made us completely lose sense of time. And for nearly three hours our conversation flowed through the spacious restaurant “Four” in Hotel Park.

While we were locating the obstacles faced by companies represented by the organizations that these three ladies represent in their day-to-day functioning, introduced by their real names, did not suggest that this conversation would end here.

It feels as this was a small announcement for their takeover of the economic “stage” in 2019, it was like an announcement for many subsequent meetings, in wider composition, with even louder stances, with even stronger arguments, present everywhere in the media space.

“2019 will be the year of unification of the private sector and equalization of its voice.”, says Despodov.

Asked what is the basis of her claim, she says a major step forward in the cooperation between the chambers of commerce has already been made. This trend, according to her, will continue for the current year and will grow, and the reason behind this is that the entire private sector is united and together they are locating the challenges and everyday obstacles in the process of their work.

“We are united and loud and we are not afraid to continue to be such because this country is more important to us, to the private sector, than any politician or political party. We want to continue working here, and we want our children to grow up and work here”, says Nikova-Bundovski.  “And we call on the other chambers, the civil sector and all who want reforms and progress, to join us,” say our interlocutors, “because we do not inherit the country from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children, and we don’t want our children to be halfway out of here since childhood”, says Diana Despodov.

And if this year, so confidently and clairvoyantly proclaimed by the Government as economic year, be appreciated by its beginning, there is no doubt that after this amazing energy, the voice that will lead through the challenges for a better economy, better conditions for the development of the private sector, to achieve a higher standard for the citizens, will definitely be the voice of the business community.