Serbia, A large number of good managers know what should be done with energy company EPS

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A large number of good managers know what should be done with EPS, but the question is how to convince the decision-makers to implement it.

If the offer to foreign experts is related to professional management, that is perfectly fine. We should not go to the other extreme and allow our public enterprises to be completely managed by foreigners. There should be a mixture of domestic and foreign experts, according to Slobodan Aćimović, professor at the Faculty of Economics. The Norwegians completed a study on the development of the energy sector and offered three solutions, which entail major changes in public companies. One of the first steps is to change the management in those companies. The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, said from Oslo that the authors of the study for only one of our four or five main companies in the field of energy said that a change of management was not necessary. While for everyone else, they said that we have to change employees and bring in those with a different way of thinking.

– With this, we wanted to show one thing that, unlike all others on the political scene of Serbia, this is not a place for us to steal money and for the party’s coffers or to be the party’s butt. For us, it should be a successful company that must bring profit and welfare to Serbia in the future – said Vučić.

Slobodan Aćimović, professor at the Faculty of Economics, believes that we no longer have an alternative to not change anything in public energy companies and say everything will be fine.

– What is new for all our citizens and me is that the analysis was made by Norwegians as energy management experts. This does not mean that we are not capable of doing it ourselves, but obviously when someone tells you from the outside, when they are independent and objective, then it has more weight. A lot needs to be changed. It’s called cage-rattling in management. We constantly have to shake the cage and change employees at all levels of management to make the changes better. Those who are in the position must never fall asleep and forget that they can be replaced – says Aćimović.

Our interlocutor recalls that changes in public enterprises have been discussed for twenty years. But nothing could be done because of the enormous political resistance, from whichever government we are talking about. But now, as our people say, the emperor has been pushed to the brink and it simply cannot be managed in an unprofessional way anymore, and this has nothing to do only with the energy sector, but with all public republican and local enterprises.

– If the offer to foreign experts is related to professional management, that is perfectly fine. We should not now go to the other extreme and allow our public enterprises to be completely managed by foreigners. There should be a mixture of domestic and foreign experts – notes Aćimović.

Milorad Filipović, a professor at the Faculty of Economics, says that Norwegians certainly have knowledge and good energy management, so if you learn, learn from the best, not from the average or slightly better than you.

According to him, new management is needed as a condition to be able to enter into changes and to define those changes in the right way and in the right direction. In addition, new investments and realization of investments are necessary. Then, the improvement of legal regulations and the elimination of monopolies in the production of green energy. But the basis for that is good governance and good management. We have good experts in our country, but it is a matter of political will to let them work independently. Many good managers know what to do with EPS but how to convince the decision makers to implement it. Political will is necessary, and for many it is not worth it because they would not want to drop the golden coke like EPS or “Srbijagas” – emphasizes Filipović.

Ivan Nikolić, director for development projects of the Economic Institute, believes that one should not have too high expectations and take the condition of bringing in professional management as exclusive and the only one. It doesn’t even seem crucial to him in terms of raising the overall efficiency and better performance of public enterprises.

– In the past decades, we had the opportunity to see how professional management works in an environment that is more or less unchanged. EPS had professional management when Aleksandar Obradović came from the Czech energy company “Čez”. At the head of the Smederevo ironworks was professional management, after the departure of the US style. Their results were not only unsatisfactory, but they significantly worsened or deepened the crisis that already existed in those companies. Therefore, it may not be productive in itself. Bringing in professional management may be one of a whole set of changes that are needed and likely to happen. If the priority is change just for the sake of change, I do not support that – says Nikolić.

According to him, even if the smartest man in the world comes, if there is no political support for in-depth reforms in terms of changing pricing policy, billing policy, changing all expectations regarding investments that the state should help, no expertise will help. It is not possible to ensure the profitability of EPS with this price and income. “Srbijagas” cannot secure a financial result with a gas price that is lower than the import price.

– It’s not that I don’t know what kind of mystery to get things started, but we need political support and the willingness for the population and the economy to accept the different position of the energy sector compared to the decades we had before. This means higher prices, strict billing, minimizing online losses, and investing the revenue in the right things. In all previous years, the management could not create a miracle, if there was no precondition for the result – explains Nikolić.

Directors are chosen in competitions

Nemanja Nenadić, program director of Transparency Serbia, says that it is quite certain that public companies need a change in management, but that it is not primarily a matter of personnel changes, but of the way in which directors will be elected.

– Of essential importance is whether the elections will be held as the law requires for 10 years, in competitions, which should lead to the selection of candidates with the best qualifications and the best program. Or will it be done as before, where the legal obligation is ignored and the party-appointed directors are left for years in an illegal acting status. That is the crux of the problem, and we didn’t have to ask the Norwegians about it. That was obvious to our government representatives and citizens – emphasizes Nenadić, Politika writes.

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