Dialogue leading to reforms for one million Serbian citizens

Law adoption and the application of regulations would be significantly more efficient if they were implemented in cooperation with businesses - it is a joint assessment of the public, private and civil sectors in Serbia. However, almost two thirds of associations and half of businessmen believe that their views are not respected enough, which is why it is necessary to strengthen communication and more actively involve the economy in the initial stages of drafting regulations, it was announced at the final conference of the Public-Private Dialogue for Growth project.

According to the President of NALED Managing Board Vladislav Cvetković, currently 97% of business associations, 80% of the public sector and 70% of businesses are open for joint work on reforms.

- On the other hand, according to our research, views on the success of public-private dialogue in practice differ significantly. Businesses point out that draft regulations are now more often available on time and there has been a significant positive shift in that segment, but we must keep in mind that both businesses and associations indicate that their involvement in the regulatory process has declined in the last three years. In order to change that trend and strengthen intersectoral cooperation, we have prepared a Guide for public-private dialogue - Cvetković pointed out.

The project has been implemented by NALED in the past four years in cooperation with the Republic Secretariat for Public Policies, with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development. According to USAID Mission Director Susan Fritz, the project aimed to build a partnership between all three segments of society in implementing policies of public importance and strengthen the civil sector capacities for reform advocacy.

- We saw the role of civil society organizations primarily in advocating topics of importance to their members and the wider community, and by careful selection we came up with six major reform initiatives - flat rate tax reform, removal of regulatory barriers to organic production, bee protection, wastewater management, developing project-based and distance learning, as well as encouraging fair competition in public procurement - said Fritz.

The conference announced that these reforms had a direct impact on 11,000 members of seven associations involved in the project, such as Agro Cluster from Novi Sad, Association for Entrepreneurship Development from Niš, Association of Serbian Bidders from Kragujevac, Connecting from Pancevo, Network of inspectors of Serbia from Čačak,  and Belgrade-based Association of Beekeeping Organizations of Serbia and Association 3E.

The importance of dialogue in the process of drafting regulations is also confirmed by the fact that the effects of six reform initiatives launched within the project will be felt by the wider community, which includes more than 1,000,000 Serbian citizens - 870,000 students and their professors, 120,000 entrepreneurs, 20,000 beekeepers, 12,000 bidders in public procurement procedures and nearly 7,000 organic producers and 5,000 local and republic inspectors.

To foster further cooperation of the three sectors even after the project is completed, a Declaration of Support for Public-Private Dialogue was presented at the conference, whose signatories undertake that all interested parties will be involved in the process of introducing new or changing existing regulations. Institutions will take into account all received remarks and suggestions, regulations and public policy documents will be adopted upon a public debate, and all draft laws will be publicly available for comments on the Government's website.

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