It is evident that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the Balkans. After years of continued growth, the business sentiment across the Balkans has taken a significant hit with the index falling from 65 points to 46 points for the whole region.
One of the key messages from the Balkan Barometer 2021 Business Opinion Analytical report, launched in Tirana, Albania on 24 June, is that Balkan economies need to start seeing sustained growth. This is a requirement for the region to continue to attain the development level needed for integration with the European Union.
Interestingly, the report also found that, based on positive responses, businesses throughout the region recognised the proactive approach that governments are taking towards digital transformation. This not only included the approach to digital transformation of public services, but to the delivery of advanced technologies and innovative capabilities and enhanced physical infrastructure as well.
The Barometer also highlighted one major weakness that many Balkan businesses are faced with — being locked into a trading model focused solely on domestic markets. However, many survey participants indicated that they have the confidence to compete on a European level despite feeling hampered by the structural issues facing the economy — access to finance being a prominent one.
In its concluding paragraphs, the Barometer goes out of its way to state:
“While innovation capacities continued improving, including with decent governments’ activities, the innovation attitudes of Balkan businesses, and particularly of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, should be further supported and incentivised. Only one in ten companies on average get financial support for innovative activities, however, these more often target large companies than SMEs.”
Zvilo has long argued that access to financial tools, many of which are taken for granted in other regions, is the key ingredient to transforming the Balkan economies. If ever there was an endorsement — here it is.
About the Balkan Barometer
The Balkan Barometer is an annual research project undertaken by the Research Cooperation Council (RCC), funded in part by the EU. For access to the full Business Opinion report as well as the Public Opinion report, visit the Balkan Barometer website.