Kosovo hopes to build economic ties with Iowa, United States
One topic that came up multiple times during the trip was the economy. Kosovo is still a new country - only about 11 years old and 20 years post-war – so the economy is still growing. The country’s unemployment rate is about 25 percent, which is the second-highest in Europe.
Leaders have been working to make Kosovo more business-friendly.
American Chamber of Commerce CEO Arian Zeka said, “Being a new country, there have been some challenges mainly relating to having better policies and having better laws and regulations when it comes to strengthening of the private sector.”
According to Zeka, the government has lowered the corporate income tax from 20 percent to 10 percent.
The country is also trying to become a member of the European Union. Former President Atifete Jahjaga said Kosovo has adopted all EU requirements, which make it attractive for foreign investment.
“All of the preconditions are here in Kosovo, and so Kosovo has opened its doors for foreign investment and for economic growth,” she said.
Jahjaga calls on businesses in the United States, and particularly in Iowa, to make an investment in Kosovo.
She said, “I also want to use this opportunity to call upon the possible business people and investors from the state of Iowa to see Kosovo as a potential site for investment and to come and see what this country offers and what the youth of this country offers.”
Many people agree the economy needs to be improved for the youth in the country. More than half of the country’s population of 2 million is under the age of 25, and those people will need jobs.
Kosovo lawyer Njomeza Zejnullahu said, “I feel like the young people of Kosovo have the burden of developing more of this state.”
Zejnullahu is doing her part to develop the country and help its economy. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the University Of Iowa School Of Law. There, she did research on how to improve the publicly-owned utilities, such as water and electricity, in Kosovo.
“What I did was research on how to reduce problems that are right now in these state-owned enterprises that are having a negative impact on their performance like capture, rent-seeking, moral hazards,” she explained.
Zejnullahu spent about four months in Iowa City studying this topic. She said she wouldn’t have been able to do this sort of research in Kosovo.
“University of Iowa College of Law they have this extraordinary library. So I was able to access all possible books and journals and papers that I need,” she said.
Her 40-page paper outlines solutions to the problems facing the state-owned enterprises. She believes accountability needs to be improved.
“The most important idea is to strengthen the corporate governance and to increase accountability,” Zejnullahu explained. “One of the main problems right now is the lack of accountability.” She also believes things could be improved by including the private sector. “If we would have private companies as shareholders, minority shareholders even, in publicly owned enterprises that would increase competition and that would make private sector part of these sectors which right now they are not,” Zejnullahu said.
Zejnullahu plans to present her ideas to the government, after its election in October. She believes if these enterprises are performing better it would improve the lives of citizens. Having more reliable utilities could also contribute to making Kosovo more attractive for investment.
While Kosovo is working to attract new investment, it invites people to look at what it has to offer: rich land, educated youth, a strong culture, and more.