So far, the Government has approved around 13.260 requests for subsidies and gross salaries for approximately 56.000 employees in the amount of €14,5 million to that end have been paid, Ms Dragica Sekulić, Minister of Economy said. She says the law will be amended if abolition of Sunday-off turns out to be reasonable.
Employers’ Association has again asked for the abolition of Sunday-off, citing consequences of the coronavirus epidemic as main reason this time. Do you think it is necessary and for which tradesmen? Will your request be accepted?
Ms Sekulić: As the public is already familiar with, Sunday as non-working day in trade sector was introduced in October last year. The goal was to improve position of workers in trade sector.
Ministry of Economy continuously monitors effects of the Sunday-off. The fact that coronavirus didn’t affect all tradesmen the same is undisputed, because significant number of them worked during the epidemic and generated even greater profit. If abolition of Sunday as non-working day shows as reasonable, the law will be amended.
Have malls requested abolition of Sunday off, given the fact they suffered great losses due to extraordinary measures?
Ms Sekulić: So far, we haven’t received any such request.
It is still very early to talk about the consequences of the coronavirus for our or any other economy.
“Through the implementation of the first and the second package of measures we managed to minimize negative effects for the majority of sectors. We expect the third set of measures to produce positive results”, Ms Sekulić says.
What has the Operational unit for economic support done so far?
Ms Sekulić: Soon after the outbreak of the virus in Montenegro, National Coordination Body formed operational unit to support economy during the epidemic. This body consisted of responsible representatives of relevant institutions which contributed to dealing with the situation in an efficient and fair way. It was great responsibility to be head of this body and a great pleasure for me. I am very proud of what we have done over the past two months. We worked very hard and communicated with the economy on a daily basis. Operational body worked on notices, elaboration of measures and orders of the Ministry of Health, coordinated activities for smooth flow of good.
The challenge Operational unit was faced with was epidemic situation in Tuzi. However, we managed to overcome it with joint forces and through cooperation with the operational unit in Tuzi. We provided the purchase of agriculture products, meat and milk.
Operational unit coordinated activities related to defining simple procedures of the import of basic food supplies. That contributed to regular supply of consumers and creation of preconditions for smooth functioning of production of flour.
How many requests for subsidies has the Ministry received so far? What amount has been paid for the purposes?
Ms Sekulić: Within the second support package, in the first 18 days Ministry of Economy received over 15.000 requests for the subsidies of April salaries of companies and entrepreneurs. So far, around 13.260 requests have been approved and gross salaries for around 56.000 employees in the amount of €14,5 million have been paid to that end.
As far as the structure of businessmen is concerned, we are talking about micro, small, medium and big enterprises performing different activities. We have grouped the companies in accordance with their need to close their branches and facilities or not. We have singled out tourism as particularly vulnerable category right now, and we have provided subsidies for the companies whose employees were in quarantine, self-isolation or had to stay at home to look after children under 11. The companies that employed new workers during the crisis had special treatment.
Therefore, depending on the category they belong to, enterprises are entitled to subsidy in the amount of 50, 70 or 100% of minimum wage in Montenegro for the period of two or six months. I would like to highlight the fact that in a matter of a couple of weeks we created innovative applicable solution which enables that applications be realized without documentation using the right of e-signature.
The number of submitted requests, approved requests and daily communication with businessmen tell us that we acted timely and helped those who needed help most.
What’s the price of coronavirus consequences for the economy?
Ms Sekulić: It is still too early to talk about the consequences of the coronavirus. Timely response of our system in creating and implementing measures has produced results. Thanks to our fast response, activities of the majority of companies is coming back to normality.
We expect the third set of measures to produce results. The third set will be focused on recovery and development. Recovery chances lie in the implementation of projects and activities we started before the pandemic.
Implementation of activities that already started will continue. Greater support for the economy will definitely produce results. The previous period has shown that our administration is ready to respond to challenges and adapt to the given situation. It is clear we must invest more in digitization and innovation. That’s the only way to strengthen competition position on national and international market. We will pay special attention to domestic production and we will support those who create new values.
Considering that small and medium enterprises are dominant in the country, how many of them are endangered and set to go bankrupt?
Ms Sekulić: We have eliminated the bankruptcy scenario through the implementation of the first and the second set of measures.
What’s going on with the projects in the area of energy?
Ms Sekulić: The global crisis has slowed down all sectors, including the energy sector. We expect agreement with the first-ranked bidder fior Brajići to be signed soon. Construction of Gvozd wind farm is going according to plan.
Project of the ecological reconstruction of the existing block of Thermal Power Plant in Pljevlja will completely modernize the facility.