User's photos, Predrag Trokicić

User’s photos, Predrag Trokicić

Does minister of finance Dusan Vujovic know that, for the past several days, tax inspectors have been calling business owners all over Serbia asking them for the „guaranteed vote“? Naturally, for the presidential candidate listed under number 6.

We believe that Minister Vujovic doesn’t know this, even though he should, at least as per his function. Formally, tax administration operates under the ministry of finance and he controls tax inspectors. And as their boss, he should know what his employees are doing. Actually, that question should be intended for their direct superior, the director of tax administration, but, somehow, it seems that that would be pretty pointless.

If you thought that tax inspectors, like the prime minister, are engaged in the presidential campaign in their free time and of their own accord – you’re mistaken. They’ve been doing it in broad daylight, i.e. during work hours.

We should also assume that this was not an individual case. If that were true, this „case” would have been immediately isolated and „processed”. Judging by the information available, when asked “should I count you in?” the vast majority of business owners, with rare exceptions, reply “count me in”. We don’t have any information on whether and how they will be forced to present evidence of their voting, whether they will act as wagons in a “Bulgarian train”, will they have to photograph their ballots, or in some other way, but the real police may be interested in investigating that. But, as soon as I sad “police” I bit my tongue – I think that we would sooner see the cows come home.

Anyhow, it seems that tax inspectors have become party inspectors.

This isn’t a mere case of “exceeded authority”. And this will, no doubt, have severe consequences in two manners. On one hand, it will affect the work of a key state institution and, on the other, the behavior of business owners. It makes sense now to expect that the first group will try to compensate the second for this favor by giving them favorable treatment in the future. It’s also natural for the second group to expect this special treatment and it’s hard to imagine that they won’t get it. All in all, the emergence of shady relationships and grey areas is inevitable.

This, however, causes inequality in relationships between tax authorities and the so-called business community, since not all tax payers will be included in this network.

Selective application of regulations means violation of the legal framework. Without legal security there can be no healthy and progressive (!) economy. In other words, those who are ready to make shady deals with the authorities are more likely to succeed. Which means that this practice disqualifies those not willing to make such “compromises” from the business community.

A shady and insecure business environment reduces investments. Serbia is among the worst graded countries on the list of the World Economic Forum (it’s 125th out of 138 countries) when it comes to the quality of legal framework. Low investments of domestic private sector are the key cause of low economic growth. It should be at least one billion euros more than the current three billion. But, quality domestic businesspeople refrain from investing in order to avoid getting caught by the government’s radar. And the bad ones aren’t interested in long-term investments to begin with; they’re just trying to make as much money for themselves in the short-term.

Tax inspectors didn’t think to do this by themselves. The “instructions” must have come from someone higher up, whether from the very top or somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t even matter. What’s important is that it may bring thousands of votes to one man, but it will definitely cost Serbia billions of euros. Not to mention a destroyed tax system and devastated legal framework.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 30.03.2017.

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Mijat Lakićević, rođen 1953. u Zaječaru, završio Pravni fakultet u Beogradu 1975, od 1977. novinar Ekonomske politike (EP). 90-ih saradnik mesečnika Demokratija danas (ur. Zoran Gavrilović). Kada je sredinom 90-ih poništena privatizacija EP, sa delom redakcije stupa u štrajk. Krajem 1998. svi dobijaju otkaz. 1999. sa kolegama osniva Ekonomist magazin (EM), gde je direktor i zam. gl. i odg. ur, a od 2001. gl. i odg. ur. 2003. priređuje knjigu „Prelom 72“ o padu srpskih liberala 1972. 2006. priređuje knjigu „Kolumna Karikatura“ sa kolumnama Vladimira Gligorova i karikaturama Coraxa. Zbog sukoba sa novom upravom 2008. napušta EM (to čine i Vladimir Gligorov, Predrag Koraksić, Srđan Bogosavljević…), prelazi u Blic, gde pokreće dodatak Novac. Krajem 2009. prelazi u NIN na mesto ur. ekonomske rubrike. U aprilu 2011. daje otkaz i sa grupom kolega osniva nedeljnik Novi magazin, gde je zam. gl. ur. Dobitnik nagrade Zlatno pero Kluba privrednih novinara. Bio je član IO NUNS-a. Sa Mišom Brkićem ur. TV serije od 12 debata „Kad kažete…“. Novije knjige: 2011. „Ispred vremena“ o nedeljniku EP i reformskoj deceniji u SFRJ (1963-73); 2013. sa Dimitrijem Boarovim „Kako smo izgubili (Našu) Borbu“; 2020. „Desimir Tošić: Između ekstrema“; 2022. „Zoran Đinđić: prosvet(l)itelj“.