Croatian Employers’ Association Claims Croatia Learned Nothing from Crisis

Lauren Simmonds

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The Croatian Employers’ Association score which measures the implementation of reforms in twelve key areas puts the Republic of Croatia at the very bottom of the European Union.

As Darko Bicak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 22nd of November, 2018, after the World Bank and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) showed data this past month that proved the country is lagging behind in terms of business and investment climate, the Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP) has confirmed this unfavourable position once again with its HUP score. Moreover, according to HUP, which, as stated, measures the implementation of reforms across twelve key areas, it appears that Croatia has the worst score in the EU, even worse than countries such as Bulgaria and Romania, which are still considered weaker and less developed than Croatia.

“The first significant shift from the beginning of the measure of the HUP score (op.a. 2013) has been confirmed, but Croatia is still at the back end of the ”New Europe”. It’s obvious that the country doesn’t possess the capacity for quick economic growth and convergence. The problems with the entrepreneurial climate aren’t caused by culture and mentality, but primarily by weak institutions,” they state from HUP, adding that, first and foremost, the system of public and state enterprises needs to be reduced, restructured, professionalised, depoliticised, and then privatised, and that’s how more investments will occur.

These preliminary results indicate that the HUP score for 2018 stands at 37, which is one point less than it was last year.

“This result shows that Croatia also lags considerably in regard to EU member states from Central and Eastern Europe (EU10) this year. Economic growth, which was re-established in 2015 after a long six-year crisis, was an indicator of economic strength and good looks. The lessening of that score for this year should be interpreted as an indication that the current growth impulse has a cyclical or rather passing character. Deep economic and institutional structures remain weak due to the lack of reforms,” they note from HUP.

Not one figure in the aforementioned twelve areas exceeds 2/3 of the maximum value, which means that Croatia doesn’t have a strong competitive edge in some areas. The biggest visible improvement can be seen in regard to fiscal consolidation (from 54 in 2017 to 56 in 2018), productivity and competitiveness (from 34 to 45), and capital supply (from 36 to 42). The HUP score of the education and pension system is still “in the red “, but was held at 26, while the justice system stands at at 33.

The biggest negative change can be seen in terms of the fall of the investment score and needless limitations and business barriers (from 35 in 2017 to 23 in 2018), following the rise in the cost of establishing a company and increasing the number of procedures for obtaining building permits and dealing with public administration due to the rapid growth in the number of days needed to launch a business. The areas of economic burden (19) and the labour market (22) continue to be critical, year on year. Gordana Deranja, the president of HUP, believes that Croatia is experiencing weak progress and is stagnating because other countries are more successful and faster when it comes to adapting properly to new circumstances and conditions.

“The burden on the economy is still high, which is why we can’t be completely satisfied with the last wave of tax changes. Although we do consider them to be a step in the right direction, they’re insufficient to give the economy a more serious positive incentive, and it’s necessary to maintain the current growth rates, this relates particular to the burden on [taxes on] salaries.

The [situation with the] labour market situation is really difficult. There is not enough of a qualified workforce, and the pressure on wage growth is high. The problem is that with the current burdens, tax and everything else, employers have no room for further and more substantial salary increases without jeopardising the viability of their business. Instead of looking for room for greater decompression on companies and people, our budget continues to grow. Obviously, we haven’t learned anything from the crisis. As a country, we continue to spend more than we make. We’re just part of the expensive credits, which have now been replaced by funds from European Union funds, and these funds are the only development moment for the budget for 2019. There’s no indication of any serious reforms in it [the budget], and that’s what we all need to worry about,” stated Deranja.

Davor Majetić, the Croatian Employers’ Association’s chief executive, pointed out that without stronger economic growth, nothing will stop more people from leaving the country, especially young people and those who make up Croatia’s labour force.

“A serious labour shortage can endanger this kind of growth we now have, which is not the only problem for employers, it’s a problem that needs to be solved systematically and comprehensively, the question of whether or not there will be enough maids, waiters, traders, etc depends on the salaries of doctors, teachers, policemen and soldiers,” said Majetić, adding that everything that the Croatian Employers’ Association points to as neuralgic points continue on being repeated from year to year – the burden on the economy, the labour market, the health system, the education and pension system, and the judiciary.

“The government is taking steps, but they’re not enough because the huge problems we’ve inherited are enormous, and the changes we’re making aren’t going deep enough, nor are they big enough to be called reforms, which is why their reach is so limited, and when compared to other countries, we continue to remain behind them, trapped at the bottom of the European Union,” concluded Majetić.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and politics pages for more information on the Croatian Employers’ Association, the domestic economic situation, and potential reforms.


Click here for the original article by Darko Bicak for Poslovni Dnevnik


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