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PM Marković in interview with RTCG: Montenegro's economy experiences impressive growth, we create more than 30,000 new jobs

PM Marković in interview with RTCG: Montenegro
Published date 29.10.2019 21:35 | Author PR Service

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Podgorica, Montenegro (29 October 2019) -- Prime Minister Duško Marković said in an interview with national broadcaster RTCG that over nearly three years, Montenegro’s economy has experienced an impressive average growth of 4.9%.

"I would say there are several reasons for this trend in our economy. It is primarily the result of the commitment of the Government and its team, but also of all stakeholders who take part in the economic life of Montenegro," said Prime Minister Marković, emphasising Montenegro's serious reputation in global financial and economic markets.

As to the success of economic policy, the Prime Minister said that the tax debt was reduced by more than EUR 190 million compared to 1 January 2017, while at the same time, based on the reprogramming of tax debt a total of EUR 58 million was collected over the first nine month of this year.

"Our plan is to collect between EUR 15 and 20 million next year. We have stabilised our local governments’ finance, reduced local governments' debt by more than EUR 11 million, and now local governments regularly meet their legal obligations. In parallel, we have collected more than EUR 260 million of new source revenues, EUR 160 million more than planned. Our Capital Budget, as the strongest development component of the Government, has amounted to more than EUR 850 million over the past three years," PM Marković explained, adding that there is room for further progress and quality

The Prime Minister assessed the criticism that growth does not contribute to serious economic development as absolutely incomprehensible, primitive and bizarre. He recalled that the unemployment rate was reduced by more than 8% in two and a half years.

"Therefore, in March 2017, we had an unemployment rate of 22.7%. In January 2017, the number of employees in Montenegro was 177,000. At the end of the ninth month of 2019, the unemployment rate is 14.3%, and the number of employees at the end of September 2019 amounts to more than 205,000, and in August it was 215,000,” Prime Minister Marković point out.

So the benefits are considerable and the reasons why these achievements have been challenged are clearly political: "They do not wish this Government and this policy success, every success must be compromised in the first day."

Commenting on the summer tourist season, the Prime Minister said that it was better than last year's record-breaking season, and that when it comes to the winter tourist season a strong contribution should be made by the construction of ski resorts in Bjelasica, which covers five municipalities.

AIRPORTS INFRASTRUCTURE IS AT UNACCEPTABLY LOW LEVEL

Asked about the benefits of making the best use of the airports in Montenegro, Prime Minister Marković noted that this undisputed economic and development resource should be put into function of the country's development as quickly as possible.

Not bringing into question the quality of management of the Airports, which is achieving increasingly better financial results, Prime Minister Marković said that it not a matter of whether there would be a million or two million euros more revenue, but it is about improving the airports infrastructure, which is at a very low level having in mind Montenegro and for its economic ambitions.

"It is, therefore, about infrastructure, it is about potential and capacity, not only the management. Of course, another important issue of this concession is air accessibility. We need to make Montenegro more accessible across the globe - from America, Europe, Asia, more than it is today," the Prime Minister stated, pointing out that the procedure for granting a concession will be transparent and that the best company with the highest potential, not only in investment but also in operational terms, will win the concession.

Commenting on the Social Democrats' opposition to the valorisation of the airports, the Prime Minister said that at no point did this issue disrupt the relations within the Government, or within the coalition.

GOVERNMENT WILL NOT SHUT DOWN MONTENEGRO AIRLINES, WE ARE DRAFTING LEX SPECIALIS

Speaking about the future of the Montenegro Airlines, Prime Minister Marković referred to the company's extraordinary contribution to the Montenegrin economy.

He pointed out that the Montenegro Airlines brings more and more passengers to Montenegro every year, namely 558,000 passengers in 2017, more than 640,000 passengers in 2018 and this year it brought 540,000 passengers to Montenegro.

“There are 30 airlines currently flying to Montenegro. According to these data, the Montenegro Airlines brings one quarter of its guests to Montenegro and another 30 companies three quarters. Good economists say that the direct contribution of the Montenegro Airlines to the Montenegrin economy in financial terms is between EUR 100 and 150 million annually. And we have also been criticised for giving three, four, five, or fifteen million of the state aid to the company annually," said Prime Minister Marković.

He sent a clear message that the Government will not shut down Montenegro Airlines! “We are working intensively to draft a lex specialis, which will enable us to resolve, within a medium-term period of five years, the issue of Montenegro Airlines' debt that affect both employees and airports, and those the Montenegro Airlines operates with, and to create the preconditions for its successful operation and to make a strategic partner interested in the privatisation.

WE CANNOT HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WITH LOAN PAYMENT

Asked about the motorway, the Prime Minister underlined that the first section will be completed by 30 September, hopeful than by than a model for the continuation of the construction of the second section of the motorway from Mateševo to Andrijevica will be defined.

Responding to critics' remarks on debt bondage, Prime Minister Marković noted that when the Chinese loan matures in 2021, the repayment rate will be between EUR 50 and 60 million annually. He pointed to the fact that Montenegro has repaid almost EUR 1.5 billion of public debt to creditors in three years without any effort, risk or delay.

"Montenegro is a serious country with financial and economic potential and we cannot get into debt bondage not only in terms of the Chinese loan, but any other loan as well," said Prime Minister Marković.

INCREASE IN EARNINGS FOR EMPLOYEES FROM NEXT YEAR

When asked by a journalist about the education and healthcare employees' demands for salary increase, the Prime Minister said that salaries in Montenegro will grow in relation to real opportunities and real sources. He expressed satisfaction with the agreement reached to increase salaries in education by 9% in 2020 and 3% in 2021.

"We now have to bring the dialogue with healthcare staff to an end. I know about their demands, I do not question the justification and expediency of them, but we must move in real terms and within the possibilities," PM Marković emphasised, reiterating that the average salary in healthcare is over 600 euros and that a doctor specialist' salary in the Clinical Centre is not below EUR 1,200 or EUR 1,300.

"We hope that in 2022 we will make new increases in education and health, but I do not want to forget pensioners, employees of the Ministry of the Interior, police, Armed Forces, fire-fighters... These are all categories that we think about every day in the Government. We are looking for ways to improve their standard," the Prime Minister stated.

NEW MODEL FOR SOLVING YOUTH HOUSING ISSUES

Prime Minister Marković answered questions about the allocation of apartments and housing loans to officials. He said that the housing policy is based upon the laws and acts of the Government, but that after the publication of the lists there was illogicality with the disposal of those funds. He said that policy and legislation in this regard will be reviewed and that a working group has been set up to do so.

He stressed that Montenegro needs a policy of better dealing with the housing issues of young people, primarily of those needed by the State - educators, engineers, good lawyers, economists, researchers and scientists.

"We are considering launching a state-funded apartment building programme across the State or with a private partner if there is interest in giving those apartments to young people, people with potential, who could find jobs outside of Montenegro faster, but who would stay in Montenegro if they could solve their housing issue. They would pay a preferential rent for 10 - 15 years as we agree, until they resolve their housing issue. In the meantime, they would be able to use state-made apartments," the Prime Minister explained, saying that he is hopeful that the model will be rounded up next year. 

TECHNICAL GOVERNMENT IS INAPPROPRIATE AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL CATEGORY

Commenting on the opposition's demands for a technical government, PM Marković said that the party to which he belongs, the DPS, has a clear stance and considers it an inappropriate and unconstitutional category that makes no sense in the electoral process.

He noted that Montenegro has the cleanest voter list on the planet and that it should make efforts towards strengthening the State Election Commission, the Anti-Corruption Agency, the municipal election commissions.

He said that Montenegro had drafted a good law regulating the issue of freedom of religion and the position of religious communities, that the Venice Commission had given a positive opinion, but that the Government, before sending the law to the Parliament, wanted to continue the dialogue with religious communities.

“Of course, we have many outstanding issues, but also disagreements, with the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro. I and the Metropolitan always argue sharply on the key issue of obeying the laws of the State. You cannot act anarchically in one state, disobey the laws, disobey procedures and disrespect the state, disrespect the choice and will of its citizens," Prime Minister Marković highlighted.

Metropolitan Amfilohije with the clergy, the Prime Minister added, does not appreciate what Montenegro is, does not want to accept it as an independent state: "And worst of all, they do not respect any national law."

"What I want to say is: We will continue discussions for another short period of time. If there is no consent, there will be no readiness for dialogue, the law will be delivered to the Parliament. Then we will make everyone in Montenegro, including the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, obey the laws,” the Prime Minister said in an interview with RTCG.

OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER