April 13, 2016
Good afternoon members of NALED, fellow partners, and distinguished guests. I’m happy to have been invited here to speak to all of you on the occasion of NALED’s 10th annual meeting. My Embassy has been a strong supporter of NALED since its inception ten years ago and we are very pleased with its growth and success over the years. NALED has repeatedly shown its value as a non-partisan partner for the Serbian government and the Serbian people. It is also a champion for the important efforts underway to reform the economy and to promote development at both the national and the local level.
NALED is based on an innovative model that brings together perspectives from the public sector, private sector, and civil society to promote policies that will support the business environment, improve the economy, and lead to a better future for all Serbians. This effort to bring together all of the relevant stakeholders, and to have them work together toward a common goal, is vital. We have seen time and time again, not only in Serbia, but around the world, that economic policy cannot be created in a vacuum. Rather, the strongest and most successful economic policies are the product of a system that allows for robust public debate and input from all stakeholders in society.
Improving the business environment is an ongoing effort and something that will require continued work by all of the groups represented here. But it is also something that will directly benefit everyone here, as well. NALED’s efforts, in conjunction with other groups like the USAID-supported Business Enabling Project, have yielded success such as a new Construction Permitting Law, improvements to the Labor Law, the National Action Plan to Combat the Gray Economy, and many others. These achievements have directly contributed to Serbia’s rise in the World Bank Doing Business list and have paved the way for more investment and growth in the private sector.
Much work lies ahead. There are still many aspects of the business environment that can be improved. The fight against corruption is not over. Corruption remains a drag on the economy and significant obstacle for legitimate businesses and investors. And, while the government has been very successful in implementing fiscal reforms, significant structural economic reforms are still necessary. The good news is that in Serbia I see government institutions, the business community, and civil society committed to tackling these reforms together. It may not be easy, but this commitment and willingness to cooperate is the key to future success. NALED and its structure and organizational model represent this sense of collective commitment.
I look forward to working with you, the government, and all of the other stakeholders to continue this reform process and to continue improving the business environment in Serbia.
I would like to conclude by congratulating NALED on its growth and success over the last ten years. You’ve repeatedly shown that you play a critical part in Serbia’s transition, and we look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.