Lindita Lepaja, Public Information Assistant in the Pristina Office, offers this story.
In May 2012, a new business registration center in Pristina started making life a lot easier for business owners in the Republic of Kosovo, allowing them to register and obtain licenses in less time and for less money than before. A modern facility, trained staff and less red tape—thanks to an agreement between the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Tax Administration—make it possible. Individual businesses can be registered in one day. And business registration numbers, fiscal and VAT numbers are now consolidated in one certificate, instead of several. Businessmen and women can get business advice and information.
Pristina's new center is part of a recently established network of 28 efficient municipal business centers spread throughout Kosovo, established with support from the World Bank's Business Environment Technical Assistance project. The $ 7 million project has been supporting the implementation of reforms modernizing business registration, along with upgrading the infrastructure of the centers themselves.
During the official opening ceremony of the Pristina center that coincided with the project's concluding workshop, Deputy Prime Minister Mimoza Kusari Lila said: "I consider that the work and engagement in the public sector is rewarded on days like today. First, the change has to be visible physically, and second it has to be felt in procedures which will directly benefit the private sector, businesses and Kosovo's economy in general."
Muharrem Osmani is feeling those benefits directly. The first time he opened a business years ago, he had to travel from north Kosovo to the capital several times to fill out paperwork and the registration procedure lasted two weeks.
Recently he registered a new shareholder in a couple of hours at the Mitrovica Municipal Business Center—a short drive from his detergent, shampoo and vinegar manufacturing plant.
"It was very difficult before," says Muharrem. "We had to spend a lot more time and money in lengthy administrative procedures. Now, with the business center in town everything is easier, we receive all the services we need fast and for little money."
That frees up more of his time to focus on running the family business.
When contemplating reforms, the government listened to feedback from business owners. Firms in Kosovo identified a number of administrative barriers to starting and operating a business, and other constraints to doing business in a 2003 survey. They included unfair or informal competition, regulatory policy uncertainty, and corruption.
Thirty separate sets of regulations for licensing and construction permits—many of them ill-defined—existed in different municipalities. Enforcement was lax, and health and trade inspections were inconsistent.
To streamline regulations and encourage business development, the government supported establishing municipal business centers where citizens can obtain permits and business registrations, pay taxes and customs fees—as well as get advice.
Since the opening of the first municipal business centers in July 2010, data collected in the field shows 6,116 new registrations in using the new system, 3,006 changes in registration and 789 business closures. And word of mouth says the business of doing business has become a lot easier.
The center has an online database directly connected to the Kosovo Business Registry Agency in the capital Pristina.
Fatmir Halili heads the Gjilan center. "We are receiving very good feedback from our clients. And we aim to function as a one-stop-shop in the future, offering clients all municipal level services," he says.
Doing business still remains a challenge in Kosovo, but the government is committed to reforms that will simplify bureaucracy, reduce the number of permits and licenses needed, improve inspection capacities and streamline the legal framework.