"Diaspora can be engine of Serbia's development"
BELGRADE -- The Serbian diaspora "can be the best engine of and development in the country and the greatest assistance and ambassador to improve Serbia's image."
This is what Director of the Serbian government Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the region Slavka Drašković said on Monday in her address at the start of the Business Conference - Serbia and the Diaspora.
Drašković also noted that the government and local authorities were "working to create a positive environment for functioning as envisaged by the aims of the agreement 'Let's Employ Serbia' which will be signed on Monday."
The program 'Let's Employ Serbia' focuses on setting up stronger ties between the Serbian diaspora and the local self-governments.
Drašković noted that Serbs from the Serbian diaspora are "deeply connected with their homeland, which is why 90 percent of all investments from the diaspora are locally oriented."
Coordinator of the Serb Progressive Party (SNS) Economic Council Milenko Dželetović said that Serbia must not miss the historic opportunity to use the capacities of its diaspora to the benefit of the mother country, but he added that this goal calls for a comprehensive strategy.
Dželetović said that Serbia, its government and economic policy makers "need a u-turn," primarily in terms of new jobs, employment increase, GDP growth, so as to create a more modern and functional Serbia.
Dželetović said that the project 'Let's Employ Serbia' also envisages the foundation of a bank which would not function as a typical investment bank.
"Take part in governments"
Prime Minister Ivica Dačić said that members of the diaspora can fight for Serbia's national interests only by taking part in government in the countries where they live, pointing out that Serbian government should create investment incentives and recognize the potential of its diaspora.
"Serbs in Montenegro are identified with the opposition. We must fight for our national interests in Montenegro, and that can be done by winning power and participating in the government", Dačić said at the opening of the conference on Monday.
Without Serbs in the region, he added, there would be no government in Croatia, "and Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci holds power with the help of Priština Serbs."
Dačić also stressed that the Serbian diaspora was one of the most generous in the world by remittances sent to the motherland, but near the bottom of the list by investments, which is why the government should create better investment conditions.
According to the National Bank of Serbia, EUR 1.5 billion or USD 2 billion have entered Serbia through formal channels in the first six to eight months, Dačić specified, while the World Bank data indicate that around USD 5.5 to 5.6 billion enter Serbia every year through both formal and informal channels, which stands between 10 and 15 percent of GDP.
"Around 11 percent of citizens are believed to receive financial aid from abroad,” said Dačić.
However, the Serbian diaspora is at the bottom of the list by investments, as the current ratio of remittances and investments is 90:10.
The government must create conditions for investments from the diaspora, stressed Dačić.
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