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Macedonia: Skopje seeks smarter solution

"We want to be the Singapore of Europe." That’s the striking slogan employed by Gligor Tashkovich, Macedonia’s minister of foreign investment. Speaking at Euromoney’s Regional Finance & Investment for South East Europe Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Tashkovich told delegates that the Balkan republic is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to secure the necessary foreign funds to help turn the country into a centre for hi-tech assembly and manufacturing. Tashkovich says that the centre-right government that came to power in late August 2006 is slashing its way through red tape and providing special incentives that it believes will transform Macedonia from a still primarily agrarian economy to one that is more knowledge-based.

Although the country has largely been spared the kind of ethnic strife that scarred the economic prospects in much of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with a population of just 2.1 million Macedonia has hitherto struggled to attract attention and foreign direct investment since declaring independence in September 1991. Nevertheless, the country’s recent economic performance has improved, with average GDP growth of 4% in 2004-06 and average inflation of just 1.6% over the same period. Exports have risen from about $1.6

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