Belgian businesses gauge local setting

THE OVERALL business environment is one of the crucial criterion on which companies decide whether to invest in a country or not. 

(Source: TASR)

Though Slovakia is considered to have one of the best settings in the region, there is still room for improvement, business leaders from the Belgian community in Slovakia said. The Slovak Spectator spoke with Dany Rottiers, managing director of EIC, Bart Waterloos, partner at VGD – AVOS Bratislava and Zuzana Eliášová, spokeswoman of ČSOB financial group about business environment, the future and more.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How do you perceive the current business environment? How has it changed in the past two years? What can be improved?

Dany Rottiers (DR): The fact that we are a consulting company advising foreign direct investors during their start-up phase in different countries enables us to make an accurate statement when we say that the business environment in Slovakia is one of the best in central and eastern Europe. Stable governance is the key for such success.

The way EU funds have been used during the past years was two-fold. On the one hand it was the right decision to focus their usage towards the construction of highways, with the one connecting eastern Slovakia having a realistic deadline of 2019. On the other hand the way of tendering these highways using EU funds was done in such a way that mainly Slovak companies were selected at dumping prices while sub-suppliers, mainly from the east, were never paid correctly. Here Brussels is watching closely the next coming tenders.

In terms of space for improvement, our investors are mainly focusing and depending on local skills and finding the right infrastructure. Therefore, reorganising your educational system and completing highway infrastructure is a real must in less-developed regions.

Bart Waterloos (BW): Over the last few years we can more talk about a stagnation of the business environment in Slovakia. From time to time there are some improvements, but then again we see other changes that increase the administrative burden and thus worsen the business environment. There certainly remains space for improvement in several areas and initiatives such as the Rule of Law deserve extra attention as well as further changes in the justice system.

Zuzana Eliášová (ZE): The quality of business environment is very important for investors, either its current state or its development or comparison with other countries. Thus the business environment is the basis for development of companies and their growth plans.

TSS: How do you assess the current labour force in Slovakia with respect to the needs of your company? What about the recent reforms to include dual education elements in the system?

DR: Getting young people to study professions that are needed by industry must become a priority. Also the selection procedures at universities should be made tougher so that young people are less disappointed once they find a job and have more realistic expectations. Many young people could be used five years earlier in industry instead of wasting that time at an under-qualified university or pursuing some futile direction of education. Dual education can assist the market with what fits for each company. The root of the problem however is that after secondary school the next school selection is not market-driven enough.

BW: For our specific sector, accounting and consulting, we see that there is an increasing difficulty in finding qualified staff. This is certainly influenced by the fact that a lot of the talented students go abroad because they find Slovak salaries too low. It is important to set up good training systems on the work floor to continuously develop their skills and expertise.

ZE: Quality of services is a decisive criterion for the client. Thus according to our opinion, for clients there are important practical innovations that will make their lives easier while for companies qualified and skilled experts are the basis for its quality. Thus improvement of quality of education is very important. Banking is a sector of services that needs various kinds of specialists like specialists at taxes, lawyers, marketing specialists, sale persons and others. The situation on the labour market is improving.

TSS: What are the current plans of your company in terms of expansion, new investments or extension of services in Slovakia?

DR: Our company has now been here for 14 years and we see a shift from purely offering FDI advisory services to including more commercial services. Central and eastern Europe are specific but booming markets for western companies. The cultural differences, however, should be well understood upfront.

BW: We are constantly monitoring possibilities to improve and extend our range of services. We expect to add 5 to 10 percent more employees this year to realise these expansion plans.

ZE: ČSOB financial group provides an extensive portfolio of services ‘under one roof’ and thus quality of services and satisfaction of clients is the key to which we adapt our plans and investments.


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