As Glas Istre/Mirjana Vermezovic Ivanovic writes on the 13th of December, 2019, it’s common knowledge that the situation in the Croatian economy and production as a whole is not exactly great.
Croatia is right at the back, far from where it should be, and all experts warn of the need for restructuring and substantive reform, of which currently, there isn’t even the letter “r”. Croatia can hardly compensate for the rut it is stuck in with the current way it has of managing things, the biggest problems being high levies, tax and non-tax payments, parafiscal charges and a large and complicated, stagnant public administration.
Gordana Deranja, president of the board of Tehnomont and the Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP), warned of all of the above at panel discussion held recently in the Istrian city of Pula. There, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Istrian Development Agency (IDA), distinguished businessmen, professors and politicians debated the current state of the Croatian economy and where they see it by the time the year 2030 rolls around. Deranja noted that Croatian employers have nothing against public administration, but it must be in the context of the general government, in synergy with the private sector, and it must actually create added value.
Croatia also severely lacks manpower. Trade unions have rebelled against its import, saying it will ruin the price of labour and as we thought about it, the pool emptied: why would someone from Bosnia or Serbia come to Croatia when they can go to Germany, Deranja warned.
She cited corruption as the next problem for the Croatian economy, but she related it mainly to Zagreb. Speaking about Tehnomont’s survival formula, she said that they were the first in all of Croatia to start manufacturing aluminum ships, and today they are the cheapest and most competitive in Europe. Speaking about the future, she stated that technology is changing very quickly, and Tehnomont is fortunate enough to be working in Germany, where all the information is readily available to it.
”Our market is small. It’s amazing that the shipbuilding industry has not been recognised by the state, and other shipyards are working on our tenders. Jadrolinija is a state-owned company that could withdraw European Union funds and build ships instead of buying used ones in Singapore. State relations are also important, we should become a country with normal incomes. Instead of holding on to our hearts, we need to show that we care about people, and we employers will adapt to that. A good example is Istria County, where the businessmen actually listen. We’ll be on a good path if we listen to each other, but if we don’t jump onto the train of the 4th Industrial Revolution and Digitisation, we’ll be left behind,” Deranja said sharply.
Along with numerous representatives of local self-government units, Istria County, CCE and other institutions and guests from abroad, the discussion was also followed by IDS’ honorary president Ivan Jakovčić. Party president and Pula Mayor Boris Miletić stated that the City of Pula is at a crossroads.
”After a hundred-year period marked by the military and joining NATO and the EU, traditions are changing. We can’t be satisfied with our demographics, emigration and labour shortages, but when it comes to migration we’re in a plus. Local self-government has the role of service, it must be efficient, serve citizens and the economy,” said Pula’s mayor. Despite Uljanik being in “the situation that it is,” he sees the future of the city in the development of the IT sector.
Similarly, at the end of the discussion, other participants concluded – the future of the Croatian economy lies in adapting to new technologies. Deranja says Croatia also needs crafts and more education, citing the example of Germany that developed excellently in that sense. People are always an important factor, and Istria has proven that both industry and tourism can develop alongside one another.
Infobip’s CEO Silvio Kutić spoke about the success of Infobip, which started in the IDA incubator. He sees the key to success in people, that is, the vision that connects them. Openness, teamwork and learning through academia are key to the success of that company that intends to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange in a few years. In the next five years, they plan to create a technological and scientific city in Vodnjan, where they plan to bring 400 experts from all over the world. But this is difficult because of poor response from city and state administration, Kutić said.
Boris Žgomba, director of the Uniline agency, who is also the head of the Croatian Association of Travel Agencies shared his opinion on the Croatian economy and what could yet come to be.
”Today, we can’t know what will be in ten years. People’s habits and technological solutions will change. People from some areas we can’t even imagine will end up coming here. The technologically advanced “Z” generation makes decisions in seconds. That guest knows more than you do. In the next ten years, there will be a revolution, big changes, and time will tell if we’re ready or not,” said Žgomba.
Prof. dr. sc. Lorena Mošnja Škare, Vice-Rector of Juraj Dobrila University, said that the institution would do everything it could to encourage its students behave in an entrepreneurial and innovative way, by stepping into the STEM field, to prepare experts for the 4th Industrial Revolution.
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