Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s new cabinet is confronted with a number of economic challenges, exacerbated by the economic hit to the global economy caused by the pandemic In 2021, North Macedonia will take economic decisions that will shape the course of the country’s future.
The issues Skopje faces
Despite a modest population of 2-million, North Macedonia repeatedly makes headlines, often due to apparently intractable disputes with neighbouring countries. Athens’s trade embargo imposed on North Macedonia in the 1990s marked the start of a 27 year deadlock between the two countries, which ultimately stalled North Macedonia’s accession to the EU. Only recently did Skopje resolve the dispute with neighbouring Greece over its official name which Greece had previously taken issue with due to the fact that ‘Macedonia’ is also a region of Greece, and the use of this name was interpreted by Greece to be an assertion of territorial ambitions in the region.
This dispute affected the country’s other diplomatic ventures. In 1999, North Macedonia was one of the first post-Yugoslav signatories of the NATO membership action plan, only to have its accession vetoed by Greece in 2008. Ultimately, North Macedonia’s Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU has not been the diplomatic catalyst that Skopje hoped would ease localised tensions and draw it into a closer relationship with Brussels.
Under the leadership of Nikola Gruveski (2006-2016), corruption and state capture were endemic in North Macedonia. Gruveksi was averse to opening negotiations with mainstream governments in Greece and it was not until the centre-left Social Democratic Union of Macedonia ousted Gruveski out of power, that there was a breakthrough. Gruveski’s successor, Zoran Zaev, capitalised on Greek Prime Minister Tsipras’s reformism to broker the controversial Prespa Agreement which settled the name dispute. Two years later, North Macedonia was finally admitted to NATO, demonstrating that Greece was the final hurdle to NATO membership.
A tamed economy
However, North Macedonia soon found that NATO membership was not a passport to joining the EU. Internal ethnic tensions have created friction with EU member states. Relations with Bulgaria soured during the election campaign for July 2020 during which the campaigns of both main political parties played on anti-Bulgarian sentiment..Zaev managed to gain power by agreeing to a coalition with the main part of the Albanian minority. The new cabinet’s economic hurdles, specifically fiscal redistribution, could be exacerbated by renewed ethnic tensions between the Slav majority and the Albanian minority. Should tensions reach the levels of the 2001 civil conflict, the deepening of this fracture would slow down reforms and deter investments.
Bouncing back after the fall
The Balkan countries suffered greatly during the Great Recession due to their proximity to the Greek economy at a time when Athens navigated the worst slowdown of recent history. As Greece’s second largest export partner, the RNM was particularly hard hit(Figure 3a). The region had barely entered recovery before lockdown measures crippled world economic growth
. In addition, North Macedonia’s small internal market is heavily reliant on external demand which the crisis has depleted. In Q1-Q2 2020, exports fell by 22.3% and industrial production by 14.6% compared to the same period of the previous year. Thus, GDP fell by 14.9% in Q2 of 2020 and another 3.3% in Q3 contrary to the projected 3.2 percent growth (Figure 7). Whilst forecasts suggest growth of 5.5% in 2021, the unpredictability of the pandemic’s economic influence may yet compromise this figure.
Meanwhile, rating agencies downgraded North Macedonia’s national debt, in turn raising financing costs. the RNM’s debt was downgraded by some rating agencies, raising financing costs. Fitch, the American credit rating agency, as well as Moody’s, another US-based credit rating agency, both value North Macedonia’s debt as a non-recommended investment asset to be reserved for short-term gain. Since May 2020 the outlook has been negative, suggesting the situation will worsen. Yet, with one of the comparatively smallest debt-GDPs of the region, these ratings are still the best in South-Eastern Europe after Bulgaria meaning the RNM has a relatively solid economic base (Figure 4).
The country’s effective response to the pandemic is in part the reason that North Macedonia is economically stronger than some of its neighbours. The caretaker government introduced a furlough scheme, worth approximately 5.5 percent of GDP, as well as a helicopter money initiative. Going forward, the government is prioritising policies that will stimulate economic growth such as slashing parafiscal charges and cutting VAT. Yet, since North Macedonia lacks the economic resources to commit to long-term reform, recovery will be slow.
North Macedonia’s Shifting Demographics
North Macedonia is contending with mass emigration in tandem with declining fertility rates (Figure 5) — both of which reduce human capital. The official estimate of two-million residents is dubitable, with some experts hypothesising an actual figure of approximately 1.5 million. Inaccurate projections of a state’s total population jeopardises effective government decision making. In the RNM, where the resources are redistributed amongst ethnic groups pro quota, this makes fiscal management particularly difficult. If, for example, the proportion of Albanians of the total population was lower than estimated, then this group will be receiving more public resources that they are entitled to.
Given that the EU acts in a starkly-protectionist way by restricting trade with third countries, greater cooperation is in the RNM’s interest. In fact, Brussels could reduce trade barriers in the context of a stronger association with Skopje even before the latter formally joins the Union.
There are steps the government can take to encourage citizens not to emigrate . The first and most crucial step would be to improve the education system. Overall, North Macedonia spends much less of its GDP than the average EU country on education. As a result, few people complete their secondary-level education, and therefore either end up in low-paying jobs or unemployed, andare forced to emigrate. Another step would be investment in the underfunded Research and Development (R&D) sector. In fact, North Macedonia’s budget allocates only 0.36% of GDP to R&D, compared to an EU average of 2.2% and neighbouring Bulgaria’s 0.77%. Research and development is essential to creating high-paying jobs, driving productivity, and boosting the economy through innovation and market competition.
Infrastructures as the drive for future growth
The silver lining in North Macedonia’s economic strategy is infrastructure development. This especially true for roads and highways. Grueveski’s administration was instrumental in the investment into road infrastructure, starting works for two new highways in 2014.
Still, roads can be rather useless if they do lead nowhere. Thus come trade infrastructures. In addition to new road, the building of new border checkpoints and crossing points with Greece and Bulgaria, will bolster the trade infrastructure that North Macedonia shares with the EU, thereby driving trade with a global economic powerhouse. These investments will also reduce the RNM’s dependence on the Yugoslav-time north-south arteries, which currently present a barrier for the development of the “functioning market economy” that is a requirement for EU membership. To achieve this goal, the RNM needs to improve, road connections towards the west (with Albania) and the east (with Bulgaria, an important trading partner). Building better connections within the country and with non-Yugoslav neighbours will boost the country’s internal cohesion by making it easier to move from one part of the country to another proving supplemental infrastructures to foster international trade.
Figure 6 Highways represent a key segment of the RNM’s investments.
A secondary and related benefit of improving connectedness with EU trade routes is reduced economic dependence on Russia. This should reduce Moscow’s potential diplomatic leverage in future disputes in the region. As a matter of fact, pulling out of Moscow’s orbit is almost a precondition to full membership in the EU — which would bring in more funding opportunity and increase financial stability. Yet, Russia’s main asset is not trade tout court, but energy. In fact, the Balkans serve as a strategic crossroad for oil and gas coming from Moscow and Baku through Bucharest and Ankara. Thus, North Macedonia should also consider developing its energy infrastructure as a route to closer integration with the EU. In order to reduce the Western Balkan’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, the region needs investments. For cash-strapped countries, like North Macedonia, the opportunity to make real progress in this field may come from ‘green’ funds the EU has earmarked for energy projects in both current member states and candidate countries . In addition, Greece has established an LNG terminal on the Aegean to which links the RNM is planning to adjoin its grid. There are also talks of an electric-grid link to Albania, through which the RNM could import as much as needed and even export eventual surpluses.
Forecast: The RNM can make it… with some help
Without radical reform, the extant corruption, bureaucracy and public-sector inefficiency will stymy growth in the coming years. Luckily, the EU might be the answer to Skopje’s economic woes. The Union is expected to grant €3.3 billion to Western-Balkan countries to kickstart economic recovery following the pandemic. The package does however come with strings attached: the country will have to accelerate progress towards regulatory harmonisation with the EU. This is a notoriously difficult and resource-consuming task, which may hinder other reforms.
Furthermore, North Macedonia must confront pre-pandemic economic struggles. The government could revert to coalition infightings and therefore prolong the process of economic reform. For investors, a cautious approach is recommended, in preparation for positive economic developments.
Acknowledgments The Author thanks Charlotte Millington, parliamentary researcher at the UK House of Commons specialising in European politics and international security for her suggestions.
Brick By Brick, BRICS Now a New Bridge for a New World
Measuring BRICS in single decades, in 2001, BRIC started as an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, and China; Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill claimed that by 2050 the four BRIC economies would come to dominate the global economy. So South Africa was added to BRIC in 2010. The following countries are now expressing interest in joining: Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Is this now the awakening of BRICS+ or BRICS power?
BRICS+ by 2030 will add dozen new members and carve new indices, and by 2040, it will lead to new intellectualism on geopolitics and socio-economies for the super complex 2050 age of smart living.
Historically, BRICS nations pushed on their people-power agenda over super-power titles. They made extreme value-creation economic models over focusing on powerful military-industrial complexes. They focused on nation-building and avoided special mandates to manage global affairs. They have been on a quest to upgrade them. They were feeding hungry mouths, as they were population rich, constantly up-skilling, and improving value creation as they were SME rich. They kept a steady watch to create multilateralism to uplift humankind.
They, too, made mistakes, as did the rest of the world
In the third decade of the third millennium, come 2020, three transformations erupted. First, futurism changed the rules on the ‘physicality of work’ and created a new imbalance with the ‘mentality of performance’; this has divided the workforce of world; the old system of over a billion commuting daily to the center of a complex maze to arrive daily at the sanctum of the company and create climate change. So now, in response, some 50% of the world’s workforce has chosen to stay away and work remotely in the surroundings of wide-open choices. Furthermore, technology uplifted micro-power-nations and exposed Western economies now stripped naked in bubble baths on slippery floors, they tippy-toe practicing conga-lines
Newly magnified economy: Behold, what microscopes exposed the magnified inner workings of the body. Similarly, the integrated networks have exposed the digital connectivity and working of millions of villages, cities, and nations with additional billions of people to interact, trade, improve grassroots prosperity and create a well-informed and opinionated citizenry. Some 100 years ago, if only 1% of the world’s population knew what was happening, today it is a dozen times more, and by 2030 double again. Why would these numbers change the global economic matrix when translated into micro-trading, micro-manufacturing, and micro-exporting? International opinion today is already strong enough to crush any national opinion of any nation still lingering under the illusion of a self-promoted victory.
When the SME sector already exists within each nation, the global markets are always hungry for good quality goods and services, and the rains of almost free digital technologies make such transformation a quick turnaround. Therefore, mindsets are critically essential; the need to define the difference between the job seeker mindset that builds the organizations and the job creator mindset that originates and creates that organization in the first place.
So what are the lessons, key features, and blueprints in sight?
Mistakes and new lessons: Last many decades, as the new world was rising, Western citizens felt like China experts, and their regular visits to local China towns restaurants in each city misguided them that Laundromat trained Chinese could only produce some chicken fried rice. Ever since the advent of the camera, the East was always projected as poor and dysfunctional; mesmerized by the media coverage during the last many decades, the West was equally convinced that India, a land of only snake charmers and fakirs, finally someday speak better English. The general perceptions about Asia, besides eating rice, if they could ever make cheaper products for the West. The rest is history, mistakes, and lessons.
After the big ding-dong nights of 2000 New Year’s Eve, today’s new story starts from the 20th chapter. Now China and India alone have created some 500 million new entrepreneurs, not by a magic pill or meta-crypto-wand but by National Mobilization of Entrepreneurialism, a slow, painful deployment of SMEs across the nation, and by creating mobilization protocols to identify, classify, and digitizing based on multiple factors from type and size to the evaluation of their “respectable” role in future communities and economic factors. This methodology was far more advanced in strategy and stern management over the globalization frenzy from the West, where sudden exporting of manufacturing of the industrial plants to kill manufacturing and destroying the middle class out of the West already declared globalization a great success.
The other mistake is to assume this is an economic or an academic study, at best, like an Oscar Slap on sleepy rotundas occupied with endless printing of money across the Western economies. Instead, this is an entrepreneurial response for the entrepreneurial nations to awaken hidden entrepreneurial talents in up-skilling SMEs and re-skilling manufacturers at national levels.
Recommendations and warnings: No airline can survive with only Flight Engineers and Frequent Flyers stuffed inside the cockpits; that space is only reserved for highly trained pilots. Henceforth, across the world, any economic development of any size, shape, or authority may find other more suitable alternate paths of occupation if they still cannot demonstrate any levels of understanding, applicable skills, or mobilization mastery on the National Mobilization of Entrepreneurialism to up-skill exporters and re-skill manufactures and uplift national SME sector as the most prominent economic contributor of the nation. Study the biggest error of economic thinking
Underestimating the hidden powers of early thinking and starting a tiny unknown SME is a mistake of mindsets; here, entrepreneurialism like a saga unfolds, like a voluminous piece of literature but demanding literacy, understanding the job seeker mindsets and the ability to differentiate with entrepreneurial job creator mindset is already winning half the battle. Study the Mindset Hypotheses
Nations failing to realize the power of the billion SME rising in Asia and still unable to declare a national agenda of national mobilization of SMEs now must acquire an understanding of the 4B Factor: a billion displaced due to the pandemic, a billion replaced due to technology, a billion misplaced in wrong jobs now a billion on starvation watch. Furthermore, this 4 billion ever digitally connected mass of people ever in the history of humankind is now the most significant force of global opinion. Notice nations are already intoxicated with joy over the popularity of their national public opinion while having just an opposite international opinion on the world stage.
Recommendation; everyone is born an entrepreneur; our system chips away at this talent. Nevertheless, 10% to 50% high potential SMEs of any nation once are identified, classified, and digitized within 100 days. The uplifting digital platforms of up-skilling exporters and re-skilling manufacturers will result in 10% to 50% quadrupling their performance, productivity, and profitability. Imagine how much-regimented efforts will activate a positive national economic revolution based on real value creation, uplifting grassroots prosperity. How soon is a nation ready for a significant change? The rest is easy.
Promoting Economic Security: Enhancing Stability and Well-being
The stability and well-being of people, communities, and countries are critically dependent on economic security. It covers a range of topics, such as access to necessities, work opportunities, stable incomes, and defense against economic shocks. The need of guaranteeing economic security has increased significantly in the modern world, which is characterized by technical developments, geopolitical shifts, and unexpected disasters. The importance of economic security is examined in this article, along with important tactics for promoting adaptability and preserving people’s quality of life.
The value of economic security to individuals, communities, and countries cannot be overstated. By fostering an atmosphere where people and families can achieve their basic needs without suffering undue stress, it promotes stability. Because of this stability, people can recuperate and start over after severe shocks like economic downturns, natural disasters, or health crises.
Furthermore, economic security contributes to social cohesion by reducing inequality and fostering inclusivity. When individuals feel economically secure, they are more likely to actively participate in society, contribute to their communities, and engage in productive endeavors. This sense of security leads to greater social harmony and a collective feeling of prosperity.
Moreover, economic security is vital for long-term sustainable development. It enables individuals and societies to invest in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and innovation. These investments drive economic growth, improve overall well-being, and create the foundation for a prosperous future. By ensuring economic security, countries can build resilient and sustainable economies that benefit their citizens and contribute to global progress.
To enhance economic security, several key strategies can be implemented. Firstly, governments and businesses should prioritize diversifying their economies by promoting sectors with growth potential and resilience. By reducing reliance on a single industry or market, countries can mitigate the impact of economic downturns and build a more robust and diversified economy.
Investing in education and skills development is another crucial strategy. Governments and organizations must focus on providing quality education, vocational training, and lifelong learning opportunities. Equipping individuals with the necessary tools and knowledge enables them to adapt to changing economic landscapes and remain competitive in the job market.
Strong social safety nets are necessary to protect people during times of economic upheaval. The most disadvantaged populations should be given priority in the design and implementation of comprehensive social welfare systems by the government. Creating a safety net for all citizens entails implementing programs for income support, healthcare coverage, and unemployment benefits.
Promoting entrepreneurship and innovation can create new opportunities for economic growth and job creation. Governments can support aspiring entrepreneurs by providing access to capital, mentorship programs, and favorable regulatory environments. Embracing technological advancements and fostering a culture of innovation further enhances economic security, particularly in an increasingly digital world.
International cooperation is essential since economic security is a global issue. Cooperation between nations is necessary to advance ethical business practices, lessen economic inequality, and improve financial stability. Initiating discourse, coordinating policy, and assisting nations in economic crises are all important functions of multilateral organizations.
Societies can improve their economic security and create a more secure and prosperous future by putting these strategies into practice: diversifying the economy, investing in education and skills, creating social safety nets, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, and fostering international cooperation.
Having economic security is crucial in a world that is uncertain and changing quickly. Governments, corporations, and individuals may all work together to create an environment that promotes economic security by putting a priority on stability, resilience, and inclusivity. We can create a more resilient and prosperous future for everybody through diversity, education, social safety nets, entrepreneurship, and international cooperation. By making investments in financial stability, we build a more just and sustainable world.
The Impact of Globalization on the South Asian Economy
Globalization refers to the process by which economies, societies, and cultures from different countries become integrated with one another. The economies of the countries that make up South-East Asia, which include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, have been significantly impacted by the spread of globalization in recent decades. The effects of globalization on the economies of South Asian countries have been mixed, with some positive and some negative results.
Positive Impacts of Globalization on the South Asian Economy
The expansion of South-East Asia’s trade and investment opportunities is one of the aspects of globalization that has had the most positive impact on the region’s economy. Because of its large consumer base, low labor costs, and strategic location, the region has become an attractive destination for foreign investors. As a consequence of this, the level of foreign direct investment (FDI) in South Asia has significantly increased, which has led to the development of new industries and the production of new jobs.
The expansion of the service industry in Sout-East Asia can also be attributed to the effects of globalization. South Asian countries have emerged as a hub for the outsourcing of services such as information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing as a result of the emergence of new technologies and the increased availability of skilled labor (BPO). As a direct consequence of this, the area has benefited from an increase in both the number of available jobs and the amount of money it brings.
Last but not least, globalization has facilitated greater cultural interaction and integration throughout South-East Asia. The region possesses a significant cultural legacy, and the advent of globalization has made it possible for South Asian music, films, and cuisine to become popular all over the world. This has not only contributed to a greater awareness of the region’s cultural heritage, but it has also opened up new doors for the travel and hospitality industry.
Negative Impacts of Globalization on the South-East Asian Economy
Even though there have been some positive effects, there have also been some negative effects that globalization has had on the South Asian economy. The widening gap between rich and poor is one of the most pressing problems that we face today. The advantages brought about by globalization have accrued almost entirely to a relatively small number of people, which has contributed to a widening income gap. As a consequence of this, social unrest and a wider gap in incomes have emerged.
Another significant obstacle that has been presented is the displacement of workers and traditional industries. Due to the effects of globalization, many smaller businesses have been forced to shut down, and their employees have been relocated to larger companies that are more productive. As a consequence of this, there has been an increase in unemployment as well as social unrest, particularly in rural areas.
Globalization has contributed to the deterioration of the environment in South Asia. The region has seen a growth in industries such as the textile industry, both of which have had a significant impact on the environment as a result of their expansion. The population’s health and well-being have suffered as a direct result of environmental degradation, which can be traced back to the increased consumption of natural resources and the improper disposal of waste produced by industrial processes.
The economy of the South-East Asian region has been affected in both positive and negative ways by the phenomenon of globalization. While it has resulted in the growth of industries and increased cultural exchange, it has also resulted in the displacement of workers and the widening of income inequality. While it has contributed to the growth of industries and increased cultural exchange, it has also resulted in the displacement of workers. In order to address these challenges, policy interventions that foster inclusive growth, protect the environment, and create new opportunities for the population will be required. By acting in this manner, countries in South Asia will be able to take advantage of globalization’s positive aspects while mitigating some of its more damaging effects.
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