Project's policy initiative leads to improved Law on Public Enterprises
December 21, 2012 - On December 17, the Serbian National Assembly adopted a new Law on Public Enterprises, which is expected to de-politicize and professionalize the management of public companies. The initial draft of the new law tied utility tariff prices to the inflation rate, thus severely hampering utility companies' investment capacities and modernization efforts. SLDP experts prepared a set of recommendations and mobilized donors and other policy allies (the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, and the Association of Utility Companies KOMDEL) to advocate for the removal of this provision.
As a result, the Ministry of Finance and Economy lifted the caps on utility service prices. The newly adopted law no longer ties tariffs to the inflation rate, but allows PUCs full cost recovery. PUCs will be able to finance improvements vs. depend on funds from municipal budgets to do so, and local governments will be able to focus more on overall economic development and job creation. The new law also requires that all PUC directors be appointed through a competitive public process and ties the evaluation of management to key performance indicators.
Project's Career Guidance Manual recognized as foundation for career counseling
December 21, 2012 - USAID's Sustainable Local Development Project (SLDP) Career Guidance Manual is recognized as foundation for career counseling by Serbian Ministry of Education. The Ministry has recommended that all 140 high schools in all 32 SLDP partner municipalities utilize the Career Guidance and Counseling Manual developed by the Project in their career counseling work with 90,000 students in these communities.
This endorsement comes at a time when the Ministry has intensified its efforts to systematically improve career counseling in secondary education in Serbia, aiming to close the gap between labor market supply and demand, thus lowering unemployment. Improved counseling competencies of school pedagogues and psychologists will enable them to better assist young people in transitioning to the job market or continuing their education towards employment which demands a higher level of schooling.
The Career Guidance Manual, published by SLDP, explains the role of career advising and gives practical instructions and guidelines for conducting group and individual career guidance activities. The Manual was written based on the work of SLDP supported career guidance mobile teams in three inter-municipal cooperation areas (Zrenjanin-, Novi Pazar- and Vranje-led).
Certification of first generation of Serbian youth workers, in line with international standards
Decembar 11, 2012 - Serbia’s first certified youth workers from 16 local Youth Offices were accredited this week following their completion of training provided by the National Association of Youth Work Practitioners (NAPOR) and supported by SLDP. The 22 Youth Office Coordinators studied advocacy, leadership, conflict management and other youth-related topics to meet European Union and Serbian standards in community youth work.
NAPOR, with the support of the Ministry of Youth and SLDP, launched the "Quality Services for Young People” program in 2012 to support municipalities’ efforts to employ qualified local Youth Office Coordinators. “High-quality municipal services for young people are critical for increasing youth employment, curbing youth migration and increasing youth participation in their local communities,” said USAID/Serbia’s Mission Director Susan K. Fritz at the certification awards ceremony, also attended by the Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports.
Program participants learned how to motivate and work with young people and how to encourage youth to be active participants in their communities. In addition, the certified youth workers learned how to design, find funding for and run youth-focused projects.
The newly certified youth workers are based in 16 municipalities within the 8 SLDP partner inter-municipal cooperation areas, led by Subotica, Zrenjanin, Novi Sad, Kraljevo, Uzice, Niš, Vranje and Novi Pazar.
Project Advocates for Inclusive Local Budget Planning and Increased Public Participation
November 30, 2012 - SLDP supported local civil-society organizations (CSOs) “Sandzak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights” and “Damad Freedoms and Cultural Center” in organizing a conference on financing CSOs through local government funding. The event advocated for increased citizen involvement in local budget planning and provided local governments with recommendations in order to improve public participation in decision making. Specific recommendations included: more public budget hearings should be held; local budget spending should be monitored on a quarterly basis; specific budget funds should be allocated for activities in support of civil society; and representatives of local CSOs should be included in local branches of the Serbian Coordination Body for Cooperation with Civil Society.
The event was organized by SLDP’s CSO focal point organizations (Sandzak Committee and Damad), which are tasked with enhancing citizen participation in IMC area planning and policy-making. Fifty-two representatives from local governments, CSOs, the Serbian Office for Cooperation with Civil Society and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) attended the conference.
Best Young Entrepreneurs awarded
December 7, 2012 - The Youth Business Serbia (YBS) program, supported by SLDP, recognized two young entrepreneurs who had the most innovative and overall best business start-ups. The two winners, who received financial recognition as well, were a youth from Novi Sad whose hemp industrial processing business was recognized by a jury of experts as the most innovative; while the best overall business award went to a Belgrade youth for a public solar-powered cell phone charger. The winners invited other young people to follow their example, to create jobs for themselves and to benefit their communities.
The two finalists were chosen out of 122 young entrepreneurs from the Subotica, Novi Sad, Kraljevo and Nis-led inter-municipal cooperation (IMC) areas. These youths attended training on start-up planning and management, received business mentorship and had access to favorable start-up loans.
YBS was launched in partnership with Smart Kolektiv, Erste Bank and the National Employment Service (NES), with support from SLDP and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. This fall, the program gained international recognition by becoming part of the global Youth Business International (YBI) network.
The award ceremony was attended by representatives of NES, YBI, Erste Bank, the Business Leaders Forum and SLDP.
Public-Private Partnership Established to Generate New Jobs in the Vojvodina Province
November 27, 2012 - USAID’s Sustainable Local Development Project (SLDP), Lafarge Serbia and Beocin Municipality Established a Public-private Partnership (PPP) to Generate New Jobs in the Vojvodina Province. This partnership will create a new 26 hectare business park on land owned by the municipality, which will meet the demands of investors from Austria, Slovakia, New Zealand and Great Britain. Beocin's existing business park, owned by Lafarge, is nearly filled to capacity.
The foreign investors in the new park initially plan to employ approximately 250 residents from Beocin and neighboring municipalities. The agreement stipulates that SLDP will finance the main design of the new industrial zone, and Lafarge will provide technical, administrative and financial support for the development of the zone. The Lafarge Company will also assist Beocin to market the business park and provide supplementary services to future tenants. The municipality has committed to improving the business climate, streamlining administrative procedures and speeding up business-related processes and licenses.
This partnership is expected to attract new investors, which will create more jobs in this part of Serbia. Lafarge, a French industrial corporation operating in 64 countries worldwide, is a leading cement company and construction industry supplier in Serbia. The company is also the most important long-term strategic business partner in Beocin. The mayor of Beocin, the General Manager of Lafarge Serbia, and SLDP's Chief of Party signed the public-private partnership agreement last week in Beocin.
Project Participates in Drafting Amendments to Law on Local Self-Government
November 21, 2012 - A Project expert has been invited to be a participant in the newly-formed government working group charged with drafting amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government. This invitation supports SLDP as a policy stakeholder, opening the door for the project to advocate for legislative support for inter-municipal cooperation (IMC). The two main areas of change relate to: (1) a list of obligatory elements that each IMC Agreement must contain, and (2) the possibility of one municipality (presumably the larger, financially and managerially advanced municipality) to perform joint municipal functions on behalf of the other/others.
The Law on Local Self-Government was adopted in 2007 and regulates the responsibilities and functions of local self-governments in Serbia. The working group has been established by the Ministry of Regional Development and Local self-government and has 17 members, which include representatives of the ministry, the Province of Vojvodina, university professors and local government representatives. USAID (through its SLDP and Business Enabling Project) is the only donor representative in the working group. The amendments to the law are expected to be adopted by the Serbian Government by the end of 2012.
Forty-Six Young People to Gain Work Experience and Prepare for the Labor Market
November 19, 2012 - Through the SLDP-supported Youth Business Serbia (YBS) program, forty-six interns have been chosen for placement in seventeen companies from the Nis, Novi Sad, Subotica and Kraljevo-led IMC areas. Upon completion of the two-month program, the youth will be evaluated and the most suitable candidates will be offered long-term employment opportunities. Youth Business Serbia (YBS) is a comprehensive program implemented by Smart Kolektiv, Erste Bank, the Business Leaders Forum, the National Employment Service, and SLDP through which local talent is matched to local businesses in order to increase employment. The program provides education and training in skills needed by employers to the participating young people, thus increasing the youths’ chances of gaining full-time employment once the internship period is over. These partner organizations will assist young people over the next two years, with the aim of reducing youth unemployment and supporting local economic development.
Project Provides Recommendations to Increase Local Government Energy Efficiency and Financial Savings
November 16, 2012 - In cooperation with the Vojvodina Provincial Secretariat for Regional Cooperation and Local Government, the Project supported a study to improve decision making related to energy efficiency in public buildings. As part of the study, thermal imaging of public buildings (schools, hospitals, municipal buildings etc.) in Novi Sad and Temerin was used to analyze the efficiency of energy use. Specifically, findings indicate that up to 10% of municipal annual budgets are used to pay for energy, while the average energy use of households within the IMC area is approximately 70% higher than the European average.
The study indicated that over $700,000 could be saved in Novi Sad’s annual budget by increasing the efficiency of energy use in schools and hospitals alone. This calculation does not include savings that could be captured in local administration buildings, public utility companies and other public buildings such as museums and theaters. In order to improve efficiency and produce significant savings in municipal budgets, SLDP’s expert recommended that an energy management service be established within local administrations to oversee improvements in efficiency and educate local officials on how to rationally use energy. The results of the study and recommendations were presented at a press conference organized last week in Novi Sad, attended by representative of local governments, the Vojvodina Provincial Government, public utility companies, universities and Civil Society Organizations.
Study Shows Significant Renewable Energy Potential in Novi Pazar-led Inter-Municipal Cooperation (IMC) Area
November 15, 2012 - A study on wood biomass sources in Novi Pazar, Tutin and Sjenica indicates that the use of biomass for heating has great potential in the region. Wood biomass includes wood chips, leaves, branches and other leftover debris from trees and is an important renewable energy resource. In addition to being environmentally friendly, biomass is at least three times cheaper to use than heavy oil. The feasibility study, completed with financial support from SLDP and with the assistance of the Sandzak Economic Development Agency (SEDA), analyzed the existing capacity and potential for collection of wood biomass in the three local municipalities, as well as the possibility of switching the Novi Pazar heating plant from fuel oil to biomass.
At a presentation of the study last week, the Mayor of Novi Pazar pointed out that the city and neighboring municipalities “have a serious problem with heating and together are looking for a new model.” The Ministry of Energy is assisting Novi Pazar to attract funding to renovate the existing heating plant and develop a new, possibly a biomass, facility. The presentation was attended by 43 representatives of all three IMC local governments, SEDA, the Ministry of Energy and international donor programs.