METAMORPHOSIS OF THE NATIONAL SYSTEM FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENTS
➢ News (27.08.2020)
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(part one)
METAMORPHOSIS OF THE NATIONAL SYSTEM FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENTS

In the past few months, prompted by the situation caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), companies became preoccupied with crisis management, development of various scenarios to optimize operations, maintaining or if at all possible increasing revenues through rapid process automation and reforms of the organization management. This elicits the question of what were the competent institutions supposed to undertake to attract and to support foreign investments amid a period of economic crisis.

Analyses of international economic organizations, chambers of commerce, state governments and other relevant domestic and foreign institutions constantly remind us of the present situation, the expectations, but also the modalities, measures and activities that need to be undertaken to appropriately deal with the emerging effects of the pandemic.

Precisely the comparative experiences of EU countries could substantially facilitate our efforts in finding a suitable response in terms of activities the competent institutions in charge of foreign investments could engage in to attract new foreign investors even in a time of crisis, but also retain existing foreign investors that already successfully operate in this country for several years on end. We all agree about the positive impact of quality foreign investments on the domestic economy. In the interest of this development, now adapted to the new reality brought about by the pandemic, institutional bodies in charge of foreign investments (known as: agencies, directorates, associations, departments, sectors, state councils etc.) have the duty to facilitate communication between investors and the government. With the spread of the pandemic, many national agencies for foreign investments were compelled to urgently adapt their strategies and work approaches to the current conditions.

Why?

Because due to restrictions on international travel, expo participations, direct presentations, and receptions of potential foreign investors were cancelled.

What did the competent institutions for foreign investments in the European countries undertake?

More frequent publication of systematized and detailed information about COVID-19 and the economic measures (in English, in separate sections on their websites), as well as corresponding application of digital solutions and tools. Some agencies, such as the Estonian and Czech, introduced creative digital solutions to support the companies, launched an online communication channel with systemic support from AI applications, new platforms for exchange of experiences between companies, organization of hackathon competitions to find quick solutions to the problems the companies faced during the pandemic. The Polish and Portuguese agencies commenced with virtual visits of investment locations, whereas most of them stepped up their online trainings for the employees and the interested investors. In this period, the agencies that already had well designed websites, fully operational CMR (Customer Relationship Management) systems and access to digital tools and services were more successful in their response.

There is a growing trend for using business networks to communicate with companies in order to soften the health consequences, where the focus is on certain sectors and investor categories. For example, the Danish investment agency used the contacts with foreign investors, in cooperation with other institutions, to guarantee the priority requirements for equipment and materials for the health facilities. The German agency (Germany Trade & Invest) concentrated its resources on support for the five most afflicted industries that were expected to amplify the effects on the domestic economy. Several countries devoted most of their attention to the export trading companies and those that retain existing or create new jobs.

The most serious systemic reform is the promotion of the Aftercare program of the national agencies – which implies greater care for the existing investors when resolving their problems. The process of constant and quality care for existing foreign investors is quite complex and consists of several segments:

1. Support during implementation of ongoing projects of present investors;

2. Care for investors while resolving their problems;

3. Strategic support for certain investors toward quick integration into the local economy;

4. Coordination between government and investors when amending economic policies.

With successful execution of these functions, agencies achieve their main goal, which is to introduce new investments to the country.

The crisis prompted repurposing of agency resources, from marketing and promotion of new investors to activities that aim to support existing investors. This was implemented by improving the active communication with the companies and regular exchange of information about government programs, support while dealing with the consequences of the crisis and overall assistance in the realization of their projects. The German and the Austrian agency (ABA – Invest in Austria) provide the investors with daily information about the developments and situation with COVID-19. The Slovakian agency (SARIO) is translating all newly adopted laws and regulations in English for the requirements of the foreign investors. Many national agencies such as the Irish (IDA Ireland), the Swedish (Business Sweden) and the Greek (Enterprise Greece) are conducting studies into the reasons and difficulties that the investors are facing and participate directly in resolving the logistics issues, whereas Portugal’s agency established a special action team to provide logistic support to companies from specific sectors.

Estimates are that in 2019, the share of reinvested profit from the standing companies in the developed economies was 61%, whereas the figure in the developing countries was 40% of the total amount of foreign investments.

The expectations of the regional countries for larger inflow of foreign investments in a period marked with the global phenomenon of nearshoring are not in agreement with the inertness of the competent institutions. Therefore, the national systems for foreign investments must undergo their largest transformation, both in the segment of strategic approach and in their operation.

Do our competent bodies for foreign investors follow global examples and practices? What is the opinion of our Foreign Investors Council in this regard and how can we contribute to the promotion of the state system designed to attract, but also care for foreign investors in this country? Read all about it in the next issue of Economy and Business.

Considering the inherent aspirations for greater productivity, maintaining and promoting employment, research and development, the multinational investors proved to be major partners to the governments in overcoming economic crises. If we expect an increase of the effect of the foreign investors on the economy and thereby, acceleration of the process of economic recovery, the countries must radically redefine the strategies to appropriately respond to the new reality.

Office of the Foreign Investors Council within the Economic Chamber of Macedonia

Chamber Informational department