Though foreign investment has not come in droves as it has in Hungary, Poland or the Czech Republic, foreign companies that have come to do business in Slovakia have organized themselves into chambers of commerce. The main purpose for these organizations according to American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) director Patrick Uram, "is to make the business environment better for doing business."
That mandate is daunting, considering that Peter Mihók, Chairman of the Slovak Chamber of Commerce said this month that the investment climate was "not improving." Mihók cited an increase in companies' tax burden to 45 percent in 1996 compared to 38.7 percent in OECD countries, and instability of legislation as the main reasons.
To combat the situation, chambers have set up monthly meetings between members, brought in Slovak officials to provide more information, and lobbied the government for positive changes for doing business.
Hot topics in the chambers are trade, raising energy prices, making changes in the tax code, and enacting a bankruptcy law.
Late last year the Austrian Chamber of Commerce started operations in Slovakia with 36 members. AmCham has 113 members, while the French Chamber of Commerce, which was the first to set up in Slovakia in 1994, has 142 members.
"We want to show that it is possible to be successful doing business in Slovakia," said Igor Schmidt, president of the French Chamber of Commerce. All of the chambers are lightning rods for contacts for businesses in foreign countries who want to find out more about the country.
"Contacts for all companies, not just American, is our specialty," said AmCham's Uram. "Trade starts with contacts."
16. Jan 1997 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll