Inaugural speech by Prime Minister-designate Duško Marković in Parliament of Montenegro
Key messages from the inaugural speech by Prime Minister-designate Duško Marković at the session of the Parliament of Montenegro
Prime Minister-designate Duško Marković said in his inaugural speech delivered earlier today (28 November 2016) in the Parliament of Montenegro that the 41st Cabinet, as another European government of Montenegro, derives its undisputed legitimacy from a valuable victory achieved in the parliamentary elections held on 16 October, as the most important political event after the referendum on restoring independence of the state.
“Why do I say it like that? Because our victory is more valuable than ever. Achieved in the political game with the competition, which has been most organised so far, with their campaign conceived in and outside the country, which did not only demonise our policies, but also us personally, i.e. with the competition that had hitherto unseen resources and that was in the Government, not outside of it,“ the Prime Minister-designate noted.
Duško Marković underlined that the new Government will remain committed to membership in NATO and the EU, as its key priorities to which not only the government, but also the entire society were dedicated in the previous period. “It is our political, security, economic and civilisational commitment,“ Duško Marković said, adding that the decision of NATO membership will be reached in the Parliament.
He emphasised that process of ratification of the Accession Protocol is expected to be completed by the next spring. By the end of 2019, i.e. before the end of the term of this Government, which coincides with the end of the term of the current European Commission, Montenegro is expected to close all the chapters, i.e. bring the negotiation process to an end.
“The full membership of our country in NATO will strengthen its position on the international scene in all areas. Montenegro will no longer be the object of other people's interests, nor of the challenging of its sovereignty, but an active factor in building peace and stability in the region and beyond. Membership in NATO will provide our country and our citizens with the quality of security and stability that we have not had so far... We are aware that the European Union is faced with many new crises and challenges today, which will probably require a transformation of its institutions and some policies, and that the community which we shall become a part of – will be different than today. However, it will not shake our firm determination to become a part of the community of nations and peoples who share common values of democracy, freedom and equality, and that together with them we build a stable and prosperous Europe tailored to its citizens’ needs,“ said Duško Marković.
In addition to EU and NATO integration, advancing and maintaining good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation also remain the key priorities of Montenegro's foreign policy, Duško Marković underlined.
“Greater attention will be devoted to intensifying relations with the neighbours, with the European Union, the United States of America and China. We will seek to overcome misunderstandings in relations with Russia, our historical ally,“ he noted, stressing the necessity of rationalising and strengthening Montenegro's diplomatic network.
Having listed the successes of the previous government in the economic field, such as maintaining macroeconomic stability, the average annual economic growth of about 3%, the inflow of foreign direct investment in the amount of EUR 1.3 billion in the period 2013-2015, the increase in wages and pensions, etc. as well as the fact that Montenegro, measured by gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity, is ranked better than other countries of the region, the Prime Minister-designate the depth of Montenegro's lagging behind Europe does not give us the right to be satisfied and does not leave room for inefficient use of time and resources
“In order to reduce unemployment and increase the quality of life of citizens, as a basic objective of economic policy, it must be imperative for this Government to define a formula to achieve a more dynamic, sustainable and inclusive economic growth at an average rate ranging between 3.5 and 4% per annum, which will bring higher income and more employment opportunities. A key success factor in this striving will be the ability to attract strategic foreign investors for implementation of development projects, which are the foundation of economic growth. Those investors, who do not only bring the necessary capital into our country, but also the specialist know–how and experience. So we have to open wide the doors to investment, in a way that all segments of society contribute to the improvement of the business environment, reliable and stimulating system of rule of law, credible institutions that will continue to proactively fight against corruption and organised crime at all levels. In other words, we need to create an atmosphere in which there will be no politicising and demagogic resistance to investors, and healthy and sustainable investment, fully aware that only with such investments can we achieve dynamic and sustainable economic growth that will bring about new jobs and improve the citizens’ standard of living,“ Duško Marković explained.
According to the Prime Minister – designate, the new Government will be primarily focused on: boosting macroeconomic stability, continuous development of quality infrastructure and a long-term evaluation of natural resources through the implementation of development projects, especially in sectors in which Montenegro has comparative advantages, namely tourism, agriculture, energy and processing industry; and improving the competitiveness of the economy, which implies an immediate continuation of the successful epilogue of structural reforms, as well as continuous improvement of business environment.
“Montenegro needs to be a fiscally strong and financially stable state. In this context, by introducing measures of fiscal consolidation, the Government should ensure that the current public spending is financed exclusively from its own revenues, without new borrowing. Government spending must be rational, with less current expenditures and increased space for the financing of capital projects that contribute to the creation of added value. Solving the fiscal problems of local governments is also of key importance. It is important that local governments make a part of these efforts: that they rationalise employment, eliminate barriers to investment and business, improve promptness, efficiency and competence of administration, ensure sustainable financing for each of the 23 local communities, and thus contribute to higher employment and better quality of life of citizens,“ Duško Marković stated.
He said that the Cabinet will we trace the path that leads to the establishment of the declining trend of the budget deficit and public debt, and restoring within the boundaries of the Maastricht Criteria.
“This will include measures on the revenue side of the budget aimed at a more efficient collection of the tax debt; regularity of settlement of tax liabilities and zero tolerance for grey economy. Keeping current tax rates, which are characterised by lower taxation of labour and income, while increasing the efficiency of tax administration, and preservation of a competitive and predictable tax system, is crucial for the country's fiscal stability. The process of fiscal consolidation and a clear fiscal strategy to be adopted by the new Government will also include measures on the expenditure side of the budget, which will limit the uncontrolled growth of current spending, Mr Marković underlined.
Infrastructure and development projects
Having stressed the key infrastructure and development projects that are underway or are about to be implemented, such as the priority part of the highway, submarine power cable, Blocks II of the Thermal Power Plant Pljevlja, wind farms in Krnovo and Možura, the Prime Minister – designate Duško Marković announced the establishment of Eco-Fund, which will finance projects and programmes aimed at dealing with the consequences of pollution and improving the environment.
Stressing that Montenegro has been recording impressive results in tourism for years as well as record–breaking statistics regarding the tourist arrivals and revenues exceeding 20% of GDP, while the tourist arrivals and overnight in 2015 exceeded the record of 1987, Duško Marković reminded the MPs of the projects that have already been implemented, such as Aman Resort and Villa Miločer in Sveti Stefan, Hotel Hilton in Podgorica and Porto Montenegro in Tivat. The same effect is expected from the projects to be implemented in the upcoming four–year term: Luštica Bay in Tivat, Porto Novi and Mamula in Herceg Novi, Hotel Kraljičina plaža in Miločer, Plavi horizonti in Tivat. We will create conditions for the implementation of projects in priority tourist locations: Buljarica, Kraljičina plaža, Maljevik, Velika Plaža, and part of the Luštica peninsula belonging to Herceg Novi. We shall invest in tourism and transport infrastructure of the Northern region, thus giving an additional impulse to the implementation of projects in the area of Bjelasica and Komovi, Durmitor area and Hajla, Duško Marković noted.
Speaking about agriculture, the Prime Minister-designate said that Montenegro's goal is to prepare farmers by 2020 for the challenges of EU membership, and to modernise production, increase the productivity and introduce more food safety standards.
As to processing industry, Mr Marković announced that the Government will strongly destimulate the export of raw wood material, and increase investment in the timber industry, especially that which is directed toward a higher degree of product finalisation, as well as reconsidering the existing model of concessions.
After the production and jobs in large industrial and mining systems, such as KAP, Steelworks, Brown Coal Mine in Berane, Bauxite Mines in Nikšić, Vektra–Jakić have been saved, the Prime Minister-designated announced the second phase of production programmes diversification and higher level of processing in all industrial plants, and thereby contribute to creating new jobs, increasing production and creating new value of the total social product.
“Aspiring towards this goal, the processing industry will be supported by this Government also through subsidized programs for the introduction of new technologies and innovation, for the opening of new production and processing plants, and for the expansion of the export base of the economy,“ he underscored.
In terms of regional development, the Prime Minister- designate said that attention will be paid to successful implementation of the policy of providing extra incentives to business that should contribute to solving the region's biggest challenges - rising unemployment.
Improving competitiveness of economy
Speaking about improving the competitiveness of the economy, Duško Marković said that it turned out that we do not create sufficiently, that we are not sufficiently competitive and that we do not put our development resources to use in an efficient manner.
“Therefore, structural reforms combined with fiscal consolidation are aimed at financial stability and growth of productivity and competitiveness. By means of a set of reform measures, this Government aims to improve the business environment as a set of clearly established rules which define property rights, reduce costs of dispute resolving, increase predictability of economic relations and the provide basic protection against misuse to contractual parties. In that regard, we shall improve the business environment the area of protection of property rights; the efficiency of contract enforcement and more efficient operation of the cadastre; issuing building permits; rationalisation of costs of utilities and other fees at the local level. In particular, we shall focus on the completion of the necessary physical planning documents, as an important precondition for attracting investment. The government will propose the adoption of a new spatial plan of Montenegro, as the existing one covers the period until 2020. We shall adopt the Special Purpose Spatial Plan for the coastal area, as a first step towards the integrated management of this area. In parallel, we shall insist on the highest degree of harmonisation of spatial urban plans with this general plan. Furthermore, we shall adopt special purpose spatial plans for the Skadar Lake and Prokletije, detailed spatial plans for the area of multipurpose reservoirs on Morača and Komarnica, as well as for the Adriatic–Ionian highway. New legal regulations will introduce the electronic system of work in planning and improve quality control of the planning documents,“ he explained.
When it comes to the tax system, the focus of reform measures to be implemented by the new government will be on maintaining the stability and predictability of tax policy and reducing the grey economy, Mr Marković added.
Education and science
In the field of secondary education, we will continue with the reform of the curricula, and pay special attention to the creation of high–quality vocational education system. When it comes to higher education, we will continue with the implementation of the Strategy of Higher Education in Montenegro (2016–2020), which we have recently adopted, the Prime Minister-designate underlined.
“The aim of the Government that I represent is the further development of science and innovation through the implementation of reform measures by raising the quality of domestic scientific and research community, through the development of an international network of cooperation and more intense intertwining of science and business,“ he emphasised.
When it comes to the health system, the Government's intention, at the primary level, is to introduce a wider range of medical services, which will be more accessible to all categories of the population, Duško Marković said.
“Outside employment of the medical staff, which was somewhat controversial in the past, will be governed by clear rules and adequate supervision. For such work, we shall introduce mandatory contributions to the budget, which will increase revenues in state funds,“ he underlined.
Labour market, social welfare, and pension and disability system
The Prime Minister–designate announced the increase in the number of those who create in relation to the number of those who consume what we create.
“It is necessary to change the dispersed system of social protection measures, which does not stimulate labour activity of the population. That is why we shall, along with the new measures, in the dialogue with the social partners, and in compliance with the obligations stemming from the negotiation process with the European Union, seek ways to increase the flexibility and mobility in the labour market. We shall thus reduce informal employment and combat undeclared work. Our goal is to create more opportunities for employment, especially of young people and vulnerable groups of the population, and ensure uniform employment opportunities. We will continue with the active employment policy, which includes loans and grant support for the involvement of young people, as well as support for self–employment programs and training for the long–term unemployed. The government will provide a subsidy to employers for taxes and fringe benefits for persons they hire, and who had lost a job because of bankruptcy. The same applies to those who were declared redundant. For those categories, through the Investment and Development Fund, we shall provide interest–free lines of credit, if they decide to develop their own business. We shall facilitate procedures for the allocation of interest–free loans to young graduates as well,“ he noted.
Culture and sports
With regard to culture and sports areas, Duško Marković announced hard work on the preservation, promotion and better recognition of all Montenegro's cultural assets and cultural heritage.
“We shall adopt a national strategy for the development of sport for a period of four years, and given that the current Law on Sports has showed flaws and omissions, we shall propose adequate solutions.
In a planned manner, we shall expand the network of sports infrastructure, enable the institutions to carry out regular medical examinations and testing of athletes, as well as improve the system of financing of sport. The Government will have zero tolerance for any kind of manifestation of violence on the sports grounds and the stands of stadia and halls.
Public administration reform
Stressing that the current administration is robust, costly and inert given the market challenges, the Prime Minister-designate said that it requires the improvement of personnel structure, raising the level of professionalism and handling the surplus of employees in public administration.
“In order to achieve the objective of sustainable economic growth and overall progress of society, a better motivated public service is necessary, along with simultaneous strengthening of the system of oversight and accountability for commitments undertaken, starting at the level of management, to every post in the administration,“ Prime Minister-designate Duško Marković concluded.
Inaugural speech by Prime Minister-designate Duško Marković at today's session of the Parliament of Montenegro