Political scientist and member of Levica
The World Bank announced that Macedonia is on the tenth place in the world according to the advantage of doing business in the country. To understand how exciting it is, perhaps it’s best to draw a parallel with FIFA’s rankings. If Macedonia was currently the tenth football nation in the world, it would mean that it would not have been ranked between the Cape Verde and Salvador, as it is now, but it would have been right behind Spain, and before football giants such as Argentina, Germany and Italy. Just imagine! The Macedonian football team in the company of Spain, Argentina, Germany, Italy, a national team that is included among the candidates for the world and European title.
Well, this is what the World Bank is claiming – that Macedonia is in the favorable business climate category. World superpower! And not just this past year. Since 2010, the reforms in favor of the capital made by Gruevski’s government have catapulted Macedonia into the top 40 countries with the most favorable business climate in the world, and for the fourth year in a row, Macedonia has been ranked in the world’s top, between the tenth and twelfth place. So Macedonia was not just one year among the top 10 countries in the world by chance, but it has been among the best for almost a decade.
But wait, are we talking about the same country? Are we sure that it is not some mix-up by the World Bank? Is it possible that this country, Macedonia, with a small volume of foreign investments, with a stagnant economy, with poor workers, is ranked among the ten most favorable countries in the world for doing business by the World Bank? Plain and simple: Yes! According to the World Bank, Macedonia has a more favorable “business environment” not only from all other countries in the entire Balkans, not only from all the countries in Southeastern and Eastern Europe, but also from 26 of the 28 members of the European Union! That it is better than Slovenia and Estonia, the countries we are dreaming to achieve, is also better than the economic giants like Germany and Japan! Do you realize now how high the World Bank ranked us? Do you realize that, according to the World Bank, we are a world class country according to favorable business climate?
Does it smell fishy to you? Of course it does. What normal person, you ask yourself, would rank this country at the very top of the world, for the fourth consecutive year, according to any economic indicator? Well, if so, foreign investors would have waited in line at the border to enter the country, the economy would have been overwhelmed, and Macedonia would have even faced shortage of labor. No unemployment, no emigration from the country! If the World Bank was right, factories and start-ups should be popping up in Macedonia like mushrooms in the rain, unemployment would instantly decline, and the living standard will grow as fast as the unemployment reduces! And since this is not nearly the case, two conclusions need to be imposed: first, the Doing Business Ranking has the value of toilet paper and, secondly, Gruevski’s policy of changing the laws in favor of capital, which is evidently highly valued as correct from The World Bank is simply wrong: it neither attracted a larger volume of foreign investment, nor did it revive the economy, nor did it improve the living standards of workers.
These are the conclusions that are imposed and these are the conclusions that the present government, supposedly anti-Gruevski, supposedly social-democratic, should have realized. But it did not act like that. From the minutes of the government sessions, it is seen that it is extremely seriously approached the Doing Business ranking and that it is taking measures to maintain and promote the ranking of Macedonia on this list.
What’s wrong with that? I have no problem with cutting down administrative barriers to doing business, when it is not hiding to stimulate the irresponsibility of capital to generate profits at the expense of product quality and environmental protection. With this retention, let the government simplify the procedures and not corruptly influence the business. All of this is fine. But when a government, still supposedly a Social Democrat, will dare to reduce labor rights to boast of one or two advances in Doing Business, then it is extremely troublesome. Workers’ rights improve the lives of certain people, and the higher ranking of Doing Business, as the reality has proven over the past ten years, does not bring a drastic rise in the level of foreign investment, nor improves the living standard. Hence, it is very clear what should be a priority for the government.
Under conditions of a science that is discouraged to progress (the government has cut back on the science budget!) And with a public discourse that is more valued by insulting the argument, it is obviously difficult to reach the readily available information that not from last year, not the year before but since 2011, the World Bank no longer determines the ranking of countries based on their labor market record. This was due to the pressure of the International Labor Organization and the trade unions, which urged the World Bank to remove the ranking of countries under labor regulations, because that ranking stimulates and encourages governments around the world by reducing labor rights to get a higher ranking of their country of “Doing Business”. So the World Bank made a compromise. It retained this criterion, but it no longer participates in the ranking of countries since 2011. Given this, someone should finally inform the government that the reduction of workers’ rights brings a higher ranking of Macedonia to “Doing Business”.
Only, things are not so simple. “Doing Business” has been introduced and supported by large capital. And the large capital wants to see changes in the countries that at it suits. And those changes, almost always, are detrimental to the rights and the standard of living of workers. Therefore, despite the concession on the non-inclusion of labor regulations in determining the ranking of countries, the other indicators of Doing Business still contain criteria that positively value the reduction of workers’ rights. Starting from this, this government, not Gruevski’s government, concluded in December last year that one of the reasons for the reduction of Macedonia’s ranking in Doing Business 2018 (from 10th to 11th place!) Was the indicator “Opening a firm” in relation to the legal obligation to publish an advertisement for employment with duration of at least five days. So it reduced the length of the job advertisement from five to three days. Why? Due to the damn ranking of “Doing Business”!
Under conditions where, especially in the public sector, the number of documents needed to compete for a single job has increased, this reduction in the length of the job advertisement actually impedes a certain number of workers from applying to job openings. Because they do not have enough time to complete the documents. And additionally stimulates party employments, since party publications are informed that a competition will be announced even before the announcement of the competition, so that they can complete the documents on time.
In the past period, the Statistics Office reported that the poverty rate has risen, several financial institutions have reduced the projections for Macedonia’s economic growth, but “Doing Business” has announced that Macedonia is in the top 10 countries according to the profitability of doing business. We, the workers, the citizens, should not allow for us to be seduced by the ranking of “Doing Business”. The advancement of countries in this rankings often means a worsening of the living standards of workers in those countries. Authorities in the service of large-scale capital will always try to justify the reduction of workers’ rights by securing a higher ranking of the country of Doing Business, but it is up to us not to accept and oppose this argument, which means loss of our rights.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik