Following the best practices of the European Union, the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) initiated Business Friendly Certification Program (BFC) in 2007, aiming to create favorable business environment and attract investments. Today, the certification is supported by a large number of relevant state institutions and international organizations, including: Ministry of Regional Development and Local Government, the Government of AP Vojvodina, Provincial Secretariat for Inter-Regional Development and Local Government, National Agency for Regional Development (NARR), Open Society Foundation and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Business Friendly Certification - BFC is a process promoting the standards of efficient and transparent local administration and allowing the evaluation of the quality of service and information the municipalities provide to investors and businesses. The Certification is intended for all cities and municipalities in Serbia wishin tho improve the business conditions in their environments, attract new investments and encourage local economic growth.
Creating an attractive business environment does not only mean offering financial incentives to investors. Even though it is an important part of the decision, the investors also take into account the quality of communication they have with local authorities, professionalism, accuracy and the impression and expectations regarding the possible partner relations in the future. The investors appreciate a realistically presented image about the local environment and the predictability of time and funds required for various procedures, starting from company registration, through construction of facilities, connection to energy and utility supply systems and hiring labor force. Municipal certification involves fulfillment of certain standards, that is, a certain guarantee that the existing businesses and potential investors would receive the services and information in a manner facilitating their activities that fall within the jurisdiction of local governments in Serbia.
12 criteria and more than 80 sub-criteria have been established, evaluating whether a municipality has fulfilled the standards of business friendly environment and to what extent:
Municipalities need to fulfill 75% of the criteria in order to become business friendly according to the BFC standard. The official certificate is issued by NALED and the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, as a guarantee to investors that the municipality offers all necessary conditions for successful business start-up and development.
Almost one third of all local governments in Serbia are improving their business environment through NALED’s certification program. There is a total of 19 cities and municipalities owning a Business Friendly Certificate, while another 8 local governments are in the process of recertification. Out of 5 municipalities included among top 10 investment destinations in South East Europe 2012/13 by Financial Times, all 5 have been certified by NALED. Since 2012, with the support of GIZ, BFC has become an internationally recognized quality standard which is being implemented in Serbia, as well as Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BFC SEE - Business Friendly Certification South East Europe), testifying to the significance and reach of certification program. The pilot project of regional certification involved 18 cities and municipalities from South East Europe, and the first eight winners of BFC SEE Certificate included two municipalities from Serbia - Ruma and Pirot.
The Certification criteria provide clear guidelines on the type and quality of services, information and infrastructure expected by the investors and businesses. All municipalities involved in certification process receive concrete recommendations about which reforms they need to take in order to create a business friendly environment, involving efficient administration, transparent local government, adequate infrastructure and partner relation towards the businesses.
The ultimate goal of BFC program is to strengthen the competitiveness of local governments, promote investments, increase employment and raise the standard of living in Serbia. The Business Friendly Certification is a unique program in our country.