Forbes published an interview with VMRO-DPMNE President Nikola Gruevski, whom the magazine announces as the most likely winner of the upcoming general elections in Macedonia, that should bring an end to the period of political uncertainty. The leading economics magazine says that Macedonia was able to weather the twin migrant and political crises, all the while bringing in investors from the United States and other countries and reducing its unemployment rate.
“December elections are next. Yes, we went through a bad crisis. It is not entirely over. But we did not give up working with the business community. Our economy still grew. We didn’t lose our credit rating and we are going to protect that rating. We convinced several new companies to start a business plan and to invest in Macedonia. It’s not going to be perfect, but I think the country is heading in a better direction now. Let’s see what voters say”, Gruevski tells Forbes in the interview.
The magazine says that Macedonia’s tax rate is a key factor contributing to the development of the free industrial zones, that have drawn automotive parts manufacturers and have changed the structure of Macedonian exports toward products which have a higher added value. Gruevski, who was recently on a visit to Washington and New York, told Forbes that even at the height of the political crisis, Macedonia never stopped working to bring n new foreign investors. His expectations are that in 2016, exports from the free industrial zones will top two billion EUR.
“These free economic zones in 2015 were around a billion and half euros in trade, which is 36% of our export value, so these zones were very important to us and make exporting from Macedonia attractive. The latest info I have is from January to September and our exports increased by 19.2% compared to the same period last year. The companies in those zones really do stimulate the development of the local economy and enabled changes in the structure of what we export. U.S. corporate investments are mainly coming from the automotive industry. Johnson Controls built two factories in Macedonia in 2015. During the crisis. Kemet Electronics of South Carolina is also active in Macedonia and have a facility in Skopje. Key Safety Systems, a Michigan company that makes airbags, started working in the technological industrial development zone in Kichevo. Amphenol is Massachusetts based and they have two brownfield facilities, and invested in a new greenfield investment in the zone”, Gruevski told Forbes.
The magazine asked Gruevski about Macedonia’s economic cooperation with Russia and China as well. “We are a small country so we have to be open to investments from everyone who wants to do business with us. From the U.S. corporate investors at present, the money is mostly coming from the automotive industry. China has a fund investing in central and eastern European countries, and we have seen some of those funds go to highway construction only so far. As far as the Russians go, we export agricultural goods and generic drugs. And, of course, we import Russian oil and gas”.
Regarding the migrant crisis, Gruevski in his interview says that Macedonia is a small country of two million people, but has none the less, seen more than a million people cross through, coming in over Turkey and Greece on their way toward the European Union countries. “We had significant costs in dealing with the challenges of the migrant crisis. There was no serious or substantial help from abroad either. Macedonia is facing the consequences of this global problem; a problem we know we did not contribute to. I don’t know if it is abating. The only lasting solution is achieving peace, political and economic stability in the countries, where these migrants are coming from”.