Interview MIA: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Zoran Stavreski

Skopje, 6th January 2014 (MIA) – The Government has given one more last chance to the citizens to purchase courtyard lots at the price of EUR 1 per square meter in the next nine months. If they fail to purchase the courtyard lots within this deadline, they will have to sign land lease agreement. There is great interest shown. After the expiry of the previous deadline, t over 1970 cases for land purchase were submitted, however the interest is actually even greater.

Government has provided additional nine months for purchase of courtyard lots. Why did you decide to undertake this step?

Citizens will be again able to purchase the courtyard lost at the price of one euro per square meter starting January, i.e. following the entry into force of the law within the next 9-month period. Following the expiry of the previous deadline for purchase of courtyard lots, i.e. December 2012, another 1,970 cases for purchase courtyard lots were submitted, i.e. that is the number of people who, after the expiry of the deadline, turned to the Property and Legal Affairs Office, so as to regulate their property right to the land they use. However, the interest is actually even greater. When meeting the citizens, the question of whether they would be provided one more last chance to purchase courtyard lots was one of the most frequently asked. In favour of the citizens, we decided to provide them that last chance so as to regulate their property issues.

What happens after the expiry of this deadline?

Those who will not privatize the land following the expiry of this deadline will have to conclude a lease agreement. Lease fee will be determined, 20% out of which will be allocated to the budget, and 80% will be allocated to the municipality where the land is located.

I would like to point out that all possible concessions have been made so far. The deadline for purchasing courtyard lots was extended twice, the price is symbolic - one euro per square meter, and we will additionally simplify the purchase-related procedures under the new legal changes, i.e. new possibility will be given for privatizing the land on which the facility is located in cases when there is not adopted detailed urban plan or another act, defining the construction lot.

Will flats and houses be bought with Government subsidies in 2014? What are the expectations from the Project for this year?

"Buy a House, Buy a Flat" Project continues in 2014 as well. I would say much to the delight of many citizens, because, since as time passes in terms of the project realization, more and more people perceive and use the benefits from this Project. To be real, buying a flat or a house is not an impulsive decision - such decision is made only several times in your lifetime so I would say that it is a matter of vital issue. When deciding about the housing issue, one should make a good consideration of the finances. "Buy a House, Buy a Flat" Project is even more present in the household budget of citizens. Government subsidy, which may amount up to EUR 10,000 for buying a flat or up to EUR 15,000 for buying a house, and which is a conditional grant is certainly an incentive. Additional incentive are the low interest rate on the subsidized Government loans. For instance, as for the “installment” model, where the Government subsidizes either 50% or 75% of the installment, the interest rate amounts to 4.99% for the first three years, while it accounts for 5.5% in the fourth and fifth year. As for the “participation” model, where the Government subsidizes either 50% or 75% of the participation in the housing loan, the interest rate amounts to 4.5% plus EURIBOR throughout the repayment period, being definitely the lowest interest rate on the market at present. On the basis of interest rates alone, citizens who will apply for this Project will save from EUR 2,000 to EUR 3,000.

So far, 228 families have resolved their housing issue through this Project which would roughly mean around 1,000 people, however the expectations from this Project are much greater. As trends on the capital market develop –supply increase indicates drop in the prices, and as time passes in terms of the project realization, number of loan users will be even higher and the interest will gain intensity.

First drawing of the prize game “Fiscal receipts in hand - rewards without hassle" was realized, the prize game will continue during 2014 as well. So far, what are the impressions, does this prize game achieve the results you expected?

Expectations of the Ministry of Finance about the prize game are surpassed. Citizens are stimulated, and at the same time they feel that they are doing something that is beneficial for the whole society. Culture of issuing and requiring fiscal receipts by traders and citizens is created and the awareness is raised about this being the usual way of fulfilling the obligations and helping the development of the local regions and the country as a whole. Each fiscal receipt provides the possibility for building more schools, hospitals, roads, pensions increase, more funds for farmers and everything else financed by the Budget. Every citizen should know that by requiring fiscal receipt he/she is provided with the possibility to support the construction of a facility, procurement of medical equipment, improvement of public sector services, and to support, in general, everything that will contribute to better life of the citizens in the Republic of Macedonia.

Flat, shop and a car have been already awarded, as well as a number of valuable vouchers. When is the next drawing scheduled for and what will the prize fund consist of?

Next drawing is already scheduled at the end of January. Therefore I appeal to the citizens to collect fiscal receipts and to send them to the already well known address of the State Lottery. All fiscal receipts as of 15th November 2013 onwards are in still frame for the prize game and the deadline for sending the receipts for the next drawing is 26th January by 24:00 o’clock at the latest.

The main prize is Polo Trendline car, and the rich prize fund including 150 valuable vouchers from Denar 1,000 to Denar 60,000 for household appliances, audio visual equipments, bikes, food products and many other prizes still remains. I would like to also underline that all envelopes that will not be winning during this drawing, will participate in the drawing for the shop and the flat on 31st June.

I would like to recommend to all citizens that the New Year's drawing, during which flat, shop, Peugeot 28 were awarded, is only a start of one big prize game, which will last throughout the year, with drawings scheduled each month, in which all citizens will have a chance to participate. The citizens are just to collect fiscal receipts and send them to the State Lottery.

In general, what are the economic perspectives for this year?

This year, the strengthening of European economy is expected to continue, as well as the economy of the EU, which is the most significant trade partner of Macedonia. In conditions of gradual restoring of confidence and optimism of consumers and investors, it is expected for the EU to realize more intensified economic growth, projected at 1.4%. In line with these expectations, as well as the Government's fiscal policy aimed at supporting the economy by increasing capital expenditures and developing economic infrastructure, structural reforms and realization of the envisaged foreign investments, it is forecasted for the economic growth of our country to intensify. It is projected at 3.2% for this year.

2014 Budget will provide for more intensified economic growth by realizing capital investments, which are by 11% higher compared to last year. Capital and infrastructure projects to be financed with Budget funds will even accelerate the economic activity. Road construction will stimulate the construction industry. Following the recovery of industry in 2013, this year, moderate intensification of industrial production is envisaged, which is project to experience 3.8% growth, mainly as a result of the expected dynamics for foreign demand growth.

Economic trends at companies will be also underpinned by the new tranche from the European Investment Bank, amounting to EUR 100 million that will be available to the companies as of January.

Last year, Law on Financial Discipline was adopted, which will also contribute to improving the liquidity of companies. All this will provide for growth intensification and improvement of economic trends of companies in 2014, thus contributing to better living standards of Macedonian citizens.

What will the Government invest in during 2014?

Perhaps the expression "2014 will be a year of major infrastructure projects” is too much used, however, it best describes the investment plans of the Government in the coming year. This year, i.e. in about two months construction of two motorways from Skopje to Stip and from Kicevo to Ohrid should start. Agreement on construction of railway line to Bulgaria was also signed, where the construction activities should commence in the next two to three months, and the railroad tracks along Corridor X will be repaired. In 2014, construction of Boskov Most and Lukovo Pole Hydro Power Plants and the primary gas network will commence, while this month, public call for concession of the secondary gasification will be launched. In addition two large projects in the health sector will also be commenced- construction of both the Clinical Center in Skopje and the Clinical Hospital in Stip.

Total investments in capital projects this year will amount to over half a billion euros or more precisely EUR 525 million, if the investments from the budget of the Public Enterprise for State Roads are taken into account. These projects will provide for work to the Macedonian companies, and new jobs for Macedonian citizens.

Unemployment still remains a burning issue the Government will continue to address in future as well. In addition to capital investments, as generator of new jobs, what do you see to be the perspective for resolving this issue?

Growth of the economy last year contributed to further unemployment reduction. It is still high, however, compared to the extremely high unemployment of around 38% we inherited from the previous Government, the reduction to the present 28.7%, or by almost ten percentage points was the maximum we could do in troubled times during a five and a half-year period of global and European crises. So new jobs are created in Macedonia, when most of the countries, under the influence of the global economic crisis, laid off workers.

As a result of only three measures this Government has undertaken, total of 39,450 new jobs have been created. 4,028 new jobs were created in the free economic zones, , 5,798 new jobs were created through self-employment on the basis active policies of the Employment Agency, 4,807 new jobs were created by subsidizing the employers through the Employment Agency, 6,591 were created jobs through the training by a renowned employer, internship created 759 jobs, personal business education created 1,914 jobs, and 4,907 jobs were created through the credit line for small and medium-sized enterprises, the Government provided from EIB.

We see the economic growth in the country, at the same time the arrival of foreign companies, which are major job creators as a perspective for this resolving this issue. For instance, as for the already existing investments, Johnson Controls Skopje has announced 500 jobs, 325 out of which being realized so far, Johnston Controls Stip has announced 1,500 jobs, 768 out of which have been already created, Johnson Metti has announced 650 and created 448 jobs, Kemet Electronic has announced 500 and created 177 jobs, Protek has announced 130 and created 50 jobs, Teknohose has announced 170 and created 32 jobs, Van Hool has announced 500 and created 250 jobs Kromberg and Schubert have announced 3,000 and created 792 jobs, Drexel Meyer has announced 4,000, 1048 out of which have been created, Alliance One has announced 150 jobs, 138 out of which have been already created, Kumal in Stip has announced 50 jobs, Kofikab Kavadarci has announced 150 jobs, Markart Veles has announced 500 new jobs. So we are talking about 11,800 new jobs stemming from the existing investments in the zones, 4,028 out of which have already been created. In addition, during 2014, it is expected for around 20 companies to arrive, which will create several thousands of jobs.
 

Suzi Koteva Stoimenova