Ten Years and Counting: Serbia’s Local Economic Development Association Throws a Birthday Party

September 21, 2016

Ten years after DAI helped Serbia launch its National Association for Local Economic Development (NALED), NALED celebrated the milestone with a gala in Belgrade that attracted more than 600 political and business leaders, mayors, representatives of state institutions and international organizations, and diplomats.

The September 7 event at the historic White Palace was opened by Ana Brnabić, Serbia’s Minister of Public Administration and Local Government. Brnabić is a former DAI employee who worked from 2002 to 2007 on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Serbia Local Government Reform Program and Municipal Economic Growth Activity. She and former DAI Chief of Party Steven Rosenberg were instrumental in establishing NALED.

NALED has since led reforms to make Serbia’s regulations more equitable, business friendly, and enduring; supported efforts to reduce the shadow economy; and helped establish the Economic Caucus in Serbia’s Parliament, among other results. Until recently, Brnabić served as president of the NALED managing board.

“Our mission [is] a Serbia … with local leaders who have all the prerequisites to realize their visions, with businesses which feel the need and the duty to pay all of their liabilities and respect the regulations, the laws that we adopt together, a simple tax system, and most of all, satisfied citizens. In this, I count on full support and a constructive criticism from NALED,” Brnabić said in a speech to attendees.

NALED has nearly 250 members: half businesses, 40 percent local governments, and 10 percent civil society organizations. It has become the key representative to the Serbian government and parliament when it comes to defining the regulatory priorities and legal solutions significant for businesses. NALED’s responsibilities also include providing independent assessments to the European Commission on the status of reforms in Serbia.

“It was difficult at first to get people to believe that such an organization could work or function,” said Rosenberg, pictured above in 2006 with Ana Brnabić, during a recent interview with NALED officials. “But this effort had a lot of credibility from the start … Our staff in both these [USAID] projects had an excellent reputation of being helpful and providing meaningful support to municipalities and the private sector. That goodwill carried over and gave people a willingness to see if NALED could be similarly successful.”

At the 10-year gala, NALED also received plaudits from ministers Branislav Nedimović, Nela Kuburović, Aleksandar Antić, Aleksandar Vulin, and Mladen Šarčević; Deputy Speaker of the National Parliament Vladimir Marinković; President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Marko Čadež; World Bank Serbia Country Director Tony Verheijen; IMF Standing Representative to Serbia Sebastian Sosa; U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott; former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Mary Warlick, now Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Energy Resources at the U.S. Department of State; and USAID Serbia Mission Director Aza El-Abd.

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