BELGRADE, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Serbia needs to speed up its reform pace in order to be economically prepared to become a member of the European Union (EU) in the future, said Yana Mikhailova, president of the Foreign Investors Council (FIC) to Serbia here on Wednesday.
She made the remarks while summing up the findings of the latest White Book of investors, referring especially to tax administration, labor legislation and food safety.
Explaining the key points of the annual White Book to company and government representatives, Mikhailova said, in the past year Serbia made moderate progress in reforms "which ensured stability, but was not enough to fulfill the aims - sustainable and competitive business climate and strong economy that can compete with more developed markets, as well as high living standard."
She noted that Serbia made visible progress only in building and construction, as well as inspection control. She urged Serbia to accelerate reforms and EU accession negotiations in order to catch up with the level of the economic development in the region.
Mikhailova said that FIC expects the government to achieve sustainable fiscal stabilization, advance rule of law especially in the area of tax administration, and to ensure more transparency in public discussion focused on reforms in all priority areas, namely tax, digitalization and electronic business, construction, inspection, food safety, transport and tobacco industry regulations.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the country's economy averaged at 4.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for the first nine months of 2018, although it was projected at 3.5 percent. The biggest challenge, she said, is to make that growth sustainable and to continue in 2019 and 2020.
She estimated that the country will have a surplus of 0.6 percent, or 28 billion RSD (around 236.5 billion euro) in the state budget by the end of the year.
On public debt, Brnabic said it is currently at 56 percent of the GDP, while foreign direct investments in Serbia this year exceeded 2 billion euros (one euro currently equals 1.15 U.S. dollars).