Study Of The Challenges That Hinder MSME Development In Montenegro : Country Report for the British Council and Swedish Institute
The European Commission’s Enlargement Package Report (2015), concluded that Montenegro continued to make progress as regards the political and economic criteria, and improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership. Good progress was made in improving the legislative framework for the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption (rule of law chapters, 23 and 24). However, Montenegro was tasked to make further progress in strengthening the institutional framework and in establishing a solid track record in the fight against corruption and organised crime. In December 2015, Montenegro received an invitation to join NATO, which was a major achievement; it became a member in 2017. With a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$ 4.1 billion (constant 2010 value), Montenegro is the smallest economy in the Western Balkans and growth has been variable in recent years. However, Montenegro continues to play a constructive role in regional cooperation, ratifying its border agreements with both, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo. It terms of economic criteria, Montenegro has made progress in developing a functioning market economy (e.g. investments in infrastructure and tourism support economic activity). It has also strengthened the administration of its financial and labour markets, as well as on improving the business environment.. However, rapidly rising public debt and high fiscal deficits, together with high external imbalances and high unemployment are of concern. The combined effects of large-scale public infrastructure investments and several new expensive social expenditure programmes challenge fiscal sustainability. Montenegro is moderately prepared in its capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Some progress was achieved in improving the quality of infrastructure, the energy market and the digitalisation of the economy. SMEs support is modest but developing gradually. Unemployment in Montenegro is high, approaching 18% of the working population. However, this is average for the region, and only Serbia and Albania have lower rates. Montenegro is, however, a major importer of short-term labour to service the needs of the tourism, construction and agricultural sectors, which are the main pillars of its economy. However, substantial efforts are still required to develop human capital and a competitive export-oriented industry. In common with many of its Western Balkan neighbours, Montenegro has a skills shortage, although not to the extent of other countries. This shortage mainly translates into a need to import seasonal workers for the tourist, construction and agricultural sectors. Montenegro has a well-developed and competitive ICT sector compared with other countries in the region, but development remains in its infancy and there is a lot of potential for improvement. Despite this, business faces internal constraints and barriers, linked to skills, competences, finance and human resources. They also had problems with lack of information about foreign markets and how to access them. To contribute to the process of internationalisation, businesses need a better introduction to foreign markets, including information and facilitating access through contacts, legal and technical assistance or promotion. Total inward investment in Montenegro from other countries was US$ 3.3 billion in 2016. This level is low in absolute terms, particularly compared to other countries in the region (behind Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Albania), but relatively high on a per capita basis. We undertook a survey of aspiring entrepreneurs across Montenegro. The sample was largely self-selected based on previous telephone surveys where respondents had expressed an interest in entrepreneurship, plus a review of the commercial register and referrals from respondents. The age distribution of aspiring entrepreneurs was under represented in younger age groups but higher in the 25–34 year old group compared with the population. Entrepreneurship aspirations are positive. There are very few problems with structural issues such as ease of forming a company. For example, establishing a business in Montenegro can be a time-consuming process. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report (2018), Montenegro was ranked 42nd globally for ease of doing business, a clear improvement on its previous ranking of 51st. Results from our survey, indicate five key issues stand out: 1. Access to finance is very challenging and acts as a significant barrier to both innovation and entrepreneurship. There is a particular need for access to affordable seed capital. This is a similar to the challenge being addressed by some of the rural micro-finance programs in Asia. 2. Connection to markets outside Montenegro and the Western Balkans region is challenging for new entrepreneurs. 3. There is a considerable amount of energy and effort already being injected, but significant scope for improving the skills of entrepreneurial teams. 4. The trading channels and payment methods accepted suggest our entrepreneurs are using basic business models, almost entirely face-to-face and strongly cash-based. 5. Three quarters of all businesses in the survey supplied larger organisations, which may be accounted by the very large public-sector base.