Two of the most important things that entrepreneurs expect from municipalities are measures and programs for the development of small and medium enterprises, and the establishing of specialized departments for supporting businesses. However, a third does not recognize that such departments already exist in the form of offices for local economic development, making it necessary to strengthen their role and place in local administration, as shown by the results of NALED’s survey on the cooperation of businesses with local governments.
The results presented at the Business Friendly Local Governments forum organized at the Palace of Serbia by the Development Agency of Serbia and NALED show that cooperation between businesses and municipalities is not at the expected level. Only five percent of entrepreneurs reported being involved in the process of strategic planning of economic development with their local government, with 91% not offering any suggestions to local authorities for the improvement of business environment.
“Entrepreneurs should be the greatest allies of local governments, not only as employers and taxpayers, but also acting as source points for expert advice, ideas and business contacts. This is why we are reaching out to cities and municipalities to engage their local business communities more through business advice " – said NALED MB President Goran Kovačević.
According to him, strong offices for local economic development that employ trained professionals can particularly assist with this process, which is the reason why the Development Agency of Serbia and NALED initiated the project titled Strengthening Local Government Structures for Supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
A research conducted at the beginning of the project helped identify problems and solutions, as well as with the training program for OLED employees with the aim of improving their knowledge and skills in working with businesses and institutions on the local, regional and national level.
The first 22 employees in offices for LED in 18 local government units have completed the training and subsequent testing in 12 areas, among which are building relationships with business community, supporting beginners in business, supporting new investments, cooperation with other municipalities, promotion of business, investments and local government, etc. Certificates confirming successful completion of training were handed out by the Minister of Public Administration and Local Government Ana Brnabić.
The project goals are largely in line with what is promoted by the internationally recognized BFC SEE standard of business friendly environment, which is to establish a partner relationship between businesses and local governments. The survey has shown that as many as 91% of local entrepreneurs consider it useful for their city or municipality to go through the Business Friendly Certification Program in Southeast Europe.
The results also show that entrepreneurs point to the lack of local incentives and benefits (44% of responses), complicated administration, high local taxes, and inefficient work of local institutions as the main barriers to business at the local level. The majority of businessmen (54%) consider the conditions of business at the premises as moderate, slightly more than a quarter as bad, and 18% as good.