Development Agency of Serbia - RAS was founded a year ago, integrating the best practices of the Serbian Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SIEPA) and the National Agency for Regional Development (NARD), advancing them in accordance with the requirements of the modern market. Today, Development Agency of Serbia is a modern conection of economy and government, offering a wide range of services, including support for direct investment and export promotion, and implementation of projects aimed at improving competitiveness, regional development and the reputation of Serbia.
Although it is a new organization, the Serbian government has set an ambitious plan for RAS in the first year of its existence, and as part of comprehensive economic reforms and measures to further improve the investment climate, as well as the empowerment of the local economy. We would like to introduce our results in the first year of operations as a RAS.
The most recognized RAS activity is work/encounter with domestic and foreign investors. The average time which elapses from the initial expression of interest from investors until the conclusion of the contract is two to three years. Over the last year RAS have been working on 94 potential projects, our of which 22 contracts were concluded, which will bring Serbia 236.8 million euros of investment and create 16,496 jobs in the coming years. This was the record result in this decade, as far as direct investment incentive program is implemented in our country.
In total, all 94 projects in the RAS portfolio are worth of 1.14 billion euros, and potential employment amounts to 44,759 new jobs. By industry, the biggest interest is in the sectors of textile, wood and food industries, which account for 40 projects. The highest investment and employment continue to generate the sector of automobile and auto-component industry, which through 26 projects could potentially bring 494.8 million of investments and will hire 21,812 workers. The third group of industry with the higest expressed interest of investors is ICT, electronic, mechanical and chemical industry where 28 potential projects can reach 465.2 million eur investment and open 15,709 new jobs.
It is important to note that each investors in Serbia receives full support from RAS project advisers, on the highest professional level, which can come up with a solution to all the problems that may encounter in their operations in Serbia. The investment advisers are there throughout the entire life cycle of investment project, from the initial, information support, through the operational phase of the project, and also afther the opening of the factories and starting of the production, what is called - aftercare project.
Beign aware of the fact that in the European Union micro, small and medium sized enterprises makes 99% of the economy and generate more than 60% of total GDP, RAS has created a wide range of programs to strengthen local businesses, to make them more prepared and competitive when entering the European market.
Within the framework of the "Year of Entrepreneurship", and through the five financial support programs for Micro and SMEs and entrepreneurs, RAS has supported a total of 1,109 projects with 891,909,582 dinars. The greatest interest is recorded for the Programme for the support for further development, which was intended for those who have already started their own businesses and to enable them to co-finance the introduction of various standards and quality systems, which are necessary for growth of the business and the performance on the foreign markets. Through this program 392 beneficiaries were supported with a total of 57,427,750 dinars.
Program for the support of small enterprises in acquiring/purchasing equipment attracted hughe interested as well. This program was conducted together with the Ministry of Economy and is designed in the way so that the entrepreneur has the minimum possible burden, ie. to bear only 5% of the total cost of purchasing equipment. The largest part, 70% is favorable loan from the selected banks and leasing companies, and 25% are grant offered by the Government. In this way, this year we supported 373 companies with 542 877 434 dinars, making the total investment of the domestic economy in aquiring new equipment and machines of almost 2.2 billion dinars in 2016.
With the Support Programme for beginners starting a business, the popular "Start up" -a, supported 116 new entrepreneurial ideas with a total of 79,155,464 dinars. It is important to note that this program is focused on heavily employable population groups - young people, women, people from devastated areas, as well as persons older than 45 years who have lost their jobs during the privatization process of socially owned enterprises,through restructuring, rationalization in the public sector or those with disabilities and without qualifications. All of them first received theoretical and practical training required for the initiation and conducting of business, and then they were able to apply with the specific business ideas.
Also, an important part of the intended range of the domestic economy accounted for the Program for the support of business institutional infrastructure. Through this program RAS supported various clusters, business incubators, science and technology parks, accredited regional development agencies, associations, cooperatives, chambers of commerce, as well as scientific research organizations, institutes and colleges. We have distributed 128,058,384 dinars for 46 users.
The only program that is available to the expenditure of funds, remained open in 2017, is the Programme of support of internationalization of companies, entrepreneurs and clusters. Through this program, last year, 182 beneficiaries received 84,390,550 dinars for new product design and packaging, participatied in international fairs, conducted market research and improve existing and developedof new technological processes and products intended for export.
When we talk about non-financial instruments to help the local economy we should emphasize Program of standardized set of services that RAS conducted in partnership with accredited regional development agencies. Thus in 2016 we provided to domestic companies 14,383 information, organized 307 training and 181 promotion acctivities, as well as 1,626 hours of advisory services.
In addition to the above, RAS's advisors have organized 12 conferences, as well as the five international fairs for 62 Serbian companies. It is estimated that thanks to contacts made at these fairs, Serbian companies achieved around 40 million euros in exports.
The RAS is currently analyzing the results of the first year of its existence, but it is already certain that behind us is an extremely successful start and the model that should not be changed. Programs that have had a lot of interest among the domestic and foreign companies will be intensified this year, while some others will undergo modifications. Also, RAS ended 2016. with the World Bank development strategy and increase the internal capacity of the Agency, which will lead to new creative activity and more importantly help to businessmen, and local governments and state institutions.