ECONOMY Government ministers and EC directors meet, discuss 2021-2023 Economic Reform Programme

Government ministers held Tuesday an online meeting with the directors in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations and Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs as well as a representative from the Directorate‑General for Economic and Financial Affairs.

The meeting was focused on 2021-2023 Economic Reform Programme (ERP), which was submitted to the European Commission on Jan. 29  and contains medium-term macroeconomic and fiscal framework, as well as structural reforms to be implemented, set through a joint dialogue with the European Commission.

In 2021 the focus will be put on the post Covid-19 recovery, while integrating mid-term reforms that make this recovery sustainable and build up economic resilience in line with the EU green, digital and just transition priorities, Finance Ministry said Tuesday in a press release.

In addition to Finance Minister Fatmir Besimi, who is coordinator of the process of preparation of the Economic Reform Programme, the meeting was attended by the Deputy PM for Economic Affairs Fatmir Bytyqi, Minister of Transport and Communications Blagoj Bochvarski, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy Arjanit Hoxha, Education Minister Mila Carovska, Labour Minister Jagoda Shahpaska, Health Minister Venko Filipche, Minister of Environment and Physical Planning Naser Nuredini, as well as Director of the Innovation Fund Kosta Petrov, Deputy Minister of Economy Zoran Manevski and the State Secretary at the Secretariat for European Affairs Kalinka Gaber.

The meeting was also attended by the Director for Strategy at the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations Myriam Ferran, the Director of the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (EMPL) Joost Korte, Head of Unit for EU candidate countries at the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs and the EU Ambassador to the North Macedonia David Geer.

The European Commission in its report on the implementation of economic reforms last year identified three key structural challenges that need to be overcome in order to encourage competitiveness and inclusive growth in the country. These are improving the competitiveness of domestic companies and integration into global value chains, improving the quality and importance of the education system and formalization of the economy.

2021-2023 Economic Reform Program covers 20 priority measures (reform areas) which are to be implemented in the coming three years, aimed at energy and transport market reform, agriculture sector development, improvement of business environment and reduction of informal economy, support to research, development and digital transformation, regional economic networking, education and skills, social protection and inclusion, as well as healthcare.

As regards energy and transport market reform, measures are envisaged for boosting competitiveness of the electricity market, promoting renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency and implementing intelligent transport system along Pan-European Corridor 10. The ERP also envisages measures aimed at improvement of the business environment and reduction of the informal economy. With respect to improvement of business environment, it is envisaged to rationalize para-fiscal charges and to establish single registry thereof, to establish e-marketplace for small value procurement and to support newly established small- and medium-sized enterprises in underdeveloped regions. To the end of reducing informal economy, measures will be undertaken to encourage the registered economic activities and transactions, focusing on the sectors with the highest probability for undeclared jobs, the press release read.

ERP also envisages activities aimed at improving the results of the education process and reducing the mismatch of skills and qualifications with the needs on the labour market. At the same time, activities will be undertaken pertaining to the implementation of the Law on Social Protection, in particular with respect to vulnerable groups and increased activity of working-able population. Health sector is included in the Economic Reform Program for the first time, envisaging activities aimed at improving the healthcare of the population.

The high-level meeting was held within the European Commission’s evaluation mission of the 2021-2023 ERP. In May 2021, dialogue will take place between the European Council and the Ministers of Finance and Governors of Central Banks of the EU candidate countries from the Western Balkans and Turkey. Dialogue outcome is adoption of joint conclusions on the basis of ERP assessment, followed by recommendations on economic policy improvements, all to the end of accelerating the economic convergence, increased competitiveness of the business sector and job creation, Finance Ministry’s press release read.

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