Macedonia must stay the course on reforms to ensure that the standard of living increases and that the younger generation can build a future here. We need a vision to build a better country, a vision beyond EU membership.
The morning session was opened by Ana Arsov, Summit Chair and Member of Macedonia2025 Board of Directors. The official opening continued with a passionate speech by Nikica Mojsoska-Blazevski, Chief Executive Officer of Macedonia2025, afterwards followed by addresses of the President of the Republic of N. Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, the Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, as well as the U.S. Ambassador, H.E. Kate Marie Byrnes.
In her speech, Ambassador Kate Byrnes addressed the disappointment over the delay to EU accession by pointing out the significant and measurable progress Macedonia has made in the last few years including imminent entry to NATO. She said that the delay was more of a reflection of the internal EU processes rather than the country’s actual progress.
Subsequent sessions talked about the importance of Macedonia in staying the course on reforms. Macedonia needs to continue to make reforms for its own sake and move past any disappointment from the delay in accession talks. Reforms can increase productivity and accelerate growth so that income can converge faster to European levels. Improvements in the economy, corruption and the environment, will also send a message to the younger generation that they can build a future here.
Reforms need to focus on human capital, investment and institutions
Human capital explains 30% of a country’s income level. Macedonia needs to improve human capital and deal with a shrinking labour force by 2050. Increasing the involvement of women in the workforce can play a key part. In industries like ICT, Macedonia is leading the way with 38% of workers being women, but overall more women need to be involved in the workforce.
Technology provides an opportunity to increase labour productivity. Macedonia has good access to technology, better than many other European countries, but we need to teach our kids to be creators in the digital space, not just users. Many of the jobs of the future do not yet exist and they will be in every industry, not just IT. Macedonia needs to take hold of the opportunities and shape how its future industries will look like.
Macedonia also needs to increase its capital stock which is only 22% of the EU average. Growth in investment has been relatively strong in the last ten years, but more is needed. Improving local institutions can help improve international perceptions and encourage increased FDI. Investment needs to be channeled to more capital-intensive industries because Macedonia cannot compete in labour intensive industries on the long run.