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Seneca got it right 2,000 years ago

September 11, 2012

Loup J. Brefort

We all know that Serbia is going through a rough time. Economic growth is expected to be negative for 2012 and very low at best in 2013. Unemployment is back to over 25 percent. Public debt may soon reach the highly risky threshold of 60 percent of GDP and there is as yet little clarity on a vision for recovery that may give hope and turn around the pessimistic mood of many.  As the difficulties seem insurmountable, let me offer a thought by Seneca, Roman philosopher and statesman who also lived through difficult times: “It is not because it is difficult that we don’t do it; it is because we don’t do it that it is difficult”. To boost Serbia’s economic competitiveness and re-launch growth, tinkering at the margin of reforms won’t do. There must be a “General Mobilization” to make Serbia the best place to do business in the region.

Why does it cost over 1400 percent of income per capita on average to get a construction permit in Serbia and only 65 percent in Slovenia? Why does export of a container costs on average USD1400 in Serbia and 750 in Slovenia? Why does it cost on average 30 percent of one’s claim to enforce a contract in Serbia and only around 13 percent in Slovenia? The faster, the bolder and the deeper actions are taken, the more its chance to create sustainable jobs and improve living standards. It may be initially painful for some categories of rent-seekers but this is the only way to go. I just hope that, after saying so, I won’t be requested to imitate Seneca’s ending!

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