The region of Southeast Europe is facing a slower economic growth compared to 2018. World Bank estimates a decline to 3.2% in 2019, from 3.9% in 2018. But Southeast Europe is home to one of the world’s top 20 places to do business. According to the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2020 study, North Macedonia is 17th, while Kosovo is among the top 20 most improved economies worldwide.
Kosovo expects to show a stronger growth rate of 4% for the period of 2019-2021. In Albania, the growth rate is expected to increase in the following years (3.4 – 3.6%), following a major slowdown in 2018 (2.9%). Yet, the country will remain under the performance rates of the period 2017-2018. North Macedonia is recovering after 0.2% of growth in 2017 and will remain relatively strong at around 3% in the next few years. The three countries altogether are projected to grow faster amid uncertainties and slower growth in the EU, a main partner for these economies.
Although the development gap remains evident, the Doing Business 2020 study underlines that developing economies are catching up with developed ones in the ease of doing business. An area where Southeast Europe is significantly lacking behind compared to developed economies is legal rights.
Improving business and investment climate
North Macedonia is the highest-ranked country from the region in the “Ease of Doing Business Ranking” taking the 17th place followed by Kosovo (57), while Albania (82) is ranked substantially lower compared to other neighboring countries. The main areas of improvements in North Macedonia are contract enforcement (easier and less costly) and employing workers (revising labor regulations). Albania mainly increased the reliability of power supply. Kosovo exercised improvement across several dimensions such as, dealing with construction permits (eliminating several procedures), improving the reliability of power supply, protecting minority investors, and enforcing contracts by introducing a consolidated law on voluntary mediation.
Importantly, there are several common specifics that the 20 top-ranking economies share. The most distinguished one is the widespread use of electronic systems in public transactions. The electronic system mainly involves online business incorporation processes, electronic tax filing platforms and online procedures for property transfers.
In line with this, one of the main activities of the ACCESS project is to increase business efficiency by facilitating the implementation and application of the Electronic Identification and Authentication System (e-IDAS). This is expected to facilitate the overall integration of the electronic system in public transactions and contribute to the overall improvement of the business environment in Kosovo. The ACCESS project is financed by the Austrian Development Agency and implemented by ECIKS.