The establishing of NALED
NALED was founded in June 2006 within the USAID’s Municipal Economic Growth Activity (MEGA) program, as part of the vision of the Project Director and an expert in local economic development and public administration reform, Steven Rosenberg, about the launching of an innovative platform for public private dialogue in Serbia. The patrons and signatories of the Declaration of Establishment were the President of the Republic of Serbia and the Ambassador of United States of America.
NALED still remains the first and only public-private association in our country, whose mission is to align the views of all three sectors of the society (private, public and civil) and advocates their interests before the state in order to reach the best and comprehensive solutions for encouraging economic development.
With the support and engagement of professor Mijat Damjanović, NALED was joined by the first 17 members, the Managing Board was elected and Executive Director appointed, with two major courses of activities: strengthening the local government competitiveness through Business Friendly Certification program and improving the business conditions through policy reform.
Only six months after being established, NALED opened its own office in Belgrade downtown, thus growing out of the USAID MEGA incubator and becoming an independent organization. In the years to come, NALED intensely worked on promoting dialogue, measuring the performance of public administration and monitoring the legislative activity, advocating transparency and efficiency of procedures. The organization launched the campaign “Out of the Maze” and published the first Grey Book with recommendations for cutting the red tape, which marked the organization’s further development.
The establishing of Policy Team
As a result of cooperation with the Open Society Foundation, the Policy Team has been established within the Executive Office. With a range of unique initiatives and products, NALED further extended the boundaries in promoting the public private dialogue: Quarterly report on the regulatory reform status, By-Law Barometer, the Top Reformer award, Calculator of local business expenses, Registry of non-tax and para-fiscal charges, Ambassadorial initiative, Regulatory Index of Serbia, “Ask WHEN” campaign, promoting investment potentials of cities and municipalities at the “Nikola Tesla” airport, CSR certification etc.
Regional Business Friendly Network
Another crucial year in NALED’s development was 2012, when the Business Friendly Certification program grew into a regional initiative. With the support of German Development Cooperation, the institutions from Croatia, Macedonia and BiH together with NALED formed the Regional Business Friendly Network, which was later joined by Montenegro as well. The partners jointly developed the regional standard as a unique instrument for improving the work of local administration with the aim of creating favorable conditions for doing business and attracting investments, in line with the best international practices, and the process has so far brought together more than 90 local governments from five countries. The same year, NALED qualified for obtaining USAID’s two-year project for improving competitiveness, with its key component being the initiation of systemic countering of shadow economy.
In the following two years, these activities brought about significant new progress in NALED’s work. The established Regional Network and its mechanism for exchanging best practices for improving competitiveness enabled NALED to initiate the replication of electronic construction permitting modeled by the system established in Macedonia. During 2014, NALED was appointed as a member of the Working group for drafting the Law on Planning and Construction, which set the basis for introducing the electronic procedure for issuing construction permits, and further ensured donor support for software development and trained more than 5,000 system users.
Countering shadow economy
With regards to shadow economy, in April 2014 NALED established the Fair Competition Alliance, the first working body bringing together members interested in improving the doing business conditions in the specific field of work. In late 2014, within a meeting with the Prime Minister and line ministers, NALED and the Alliance set the path for launching action against the shadow zone. The Government established the inter-ministerial Coordination body and the Expert group for countering shadow economy, which for the first time brought together the representatives of line institutions, businesses and civil sector, working together to find systemic solutions for reducing the scope of shadow zone in Serbia. The Expert group coordinated by NALED developed the first strategic document in this field – the National program for countering shadow economy with more than 100 measures and activities.
In cooperation with NALED, the Government of Serbia also formed the Joint Group for improving Serbia’s position in the World Bank’s Doing Business list, which prepared an Action plan for improving regulations in the 10 categories evaluated in this prestigious international report. As a result, Serbia ranked 43rd among 190 countries, this being the best rank in history, with greatest progress being noted in construction permitting, with Serbia progressing from 186th to 10th position in the world in this category, in only three years.
The year was crowned by engaging and including the Parliament in the reform process. In cooperation with the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Economic Caucus was established within the National Parliament, as an informal group of MPs from the ruling coalition and the opposition parties, building a political consensus around important economic issues and the legislation governing the business environment. Along with the work on improving the regulatory framework through open and continuous dialogue with businesses, local governments, civil society organizations and citizens, one of the goals is also the strengthening of MPs’ expertise for specific regulatory issues. The Economic Caucus has considered and improved more than 10 business-related laws, by submitting 105 amendments, with 94 of them being adopted.
Thematic alliances in NALED and participation in working groups
The successes achieved in this period have paved the way for defining priorities and mechanisms of NALED’s further work. Along with the Fair Competition Alliance, NALED soon established other thematic alliances – E-Government Alliance, Food and Agriculture Alliance, Healthcare Alliance and Property and Urbanism Alliance.
The organization became an indispensable partner to the Government of Serbia and institutions in defining the legislative solutions, which enabled NALED to be appointed as a member in more than 30 working groups for drafting and amending regulations – the laws on e-business, e-government, trade, companies, insolvency, investments, local government, financial assistance to families with children, republic administrative fees, fees for use of public goods, corporate income tax, mandatory social insurance contributions, tax procedure and administration, personal income tax, gender equality, social entrepreneurship, simplified employment of seasonal workers, cadaster registration, food safety etc.
For years, NALED has been providing support to Serbia’s EU integration process and the harmonization with the EU acquis. By participating in the working groups of the National Convention on the EU for chapters 11, 12 and 13, and coordinating the group for Chapter 8 referring to Competition policy, NALED continuously contributes to the EU integration process in Serbia. The organization is also a regular contributor for the European Commission’s annual progress report on Serbia’s accession process.
Along with building partnerships with the national and local institutions, for more than a decade, NALED has been developing cooperation with international donor organizations and governments – USAID, German Development Cooperation, EU Delegation, Open Society Foundation, SDC, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Council of Europe, European Investment Bank, Great Britain, Netherlands, Norway etc.
Strengthening the organization’s internal capacities
During 11 years of work, NALED has positioned itself as the most quoted organization in the public, with nearly 4,000 media releases a year about its results and activities, in the national and local media.
Parallel with the successes in advocating reforms and improving the business environment, NALED has also strengthened its internal capacities. The number of employees in the Executive Office, as well as the network of consultants and external associates has been registering stable growth ever since the beginning, registering 44 employees in the Executive Office in 2018. The membership including businesses (51%), local governments (41%) and CSOs (8%) has been also experiencing stable growth, with annual net growth of 36 members. At the end of its first year of work, NALED had 40 members, while their number in 2018 reaches 300. Since its establishment NALED has realized more than 100 projects. The major part of the annual budget is generated from projects, even 74%, 23% is obtained through membership contributions, while 3% refers to income generated from services.