THE SARIO investment agency has said it is preparing an active investment strategy with the Economy Ministry that will target specific potential foreign investors rather than waiting for investors to take the first step.
In an article in the weekly Trend, Sario head Artur Bobovnický said Slovakia, despite last year's passage of key legislation on 10-year tax breaks and industrial parks, was still being bypassed by investors in favour of other central European countries where the rules were more transparent.
"In Slovakia the state is still not able to tell investors what they could receive," he said.
Slovakia last year drew Sk50.3 billion in foreign investment, according to preliminary figures from the central bank, about half the Sk93.9 billion recorded in the record year 2000. Investments unrelated to privatisation fell to Sk16 billion from Sk52 billion the year before.
Investment in privatised companies tends to raise unemployment, as the new owners lay off excess staff and restructure to make their acquisition more
competitive. 'Green field' investment into creating new companies and jobs, on the other hand, is highly sought by the Slovak government, which is battling 20 per cent unemployment.
In its new strategy to attract investors, Sario is getting technical assistance from the Trade Development Institute of Ireland. Project manager Matt Connolly described for Trend a "special team" at Sario whose task would be "to identify foreign companies we would like to see in Slovakia, and to build contacts with them."
Among the sectors the group would be targeting are engineering, IT, automotive, chemical and wood processing.
Bobovnický said that Sario and the Economy Ministry, under which it now belongs following changes in personnel and business structure last year, would be cooperating at trade missions in Slovak embassies abroad to address potential investors directly.
Ivan Čarnogurský, brother of Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský, said that the Association of Industrial Companies (ZPP), a 30-member group that he heads, would soon be signing a contract with the Economy Ministry to coordinate steps with Sario.
ZPP's role, Čarnogurský said, would be to direct investors towards ZPP member development firms "providing complete service from the legal and economic aspects to the building of industrial parks."
Bobovnický confirmed that Sario would be channeling investors towards Slovak developers. "But we won't be charging a fee because we are supported from the state budget, we're not a commercial agency," he said.
1. Apr 2002 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson