Until the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, the pillar of the Montenegrin economy was tourism, from which revenues made up 24% of GDP. In 2019, the small Balkan country with approximately 620,000 inhabitants welcomed over 2 million guests from abroad. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and pandemic measures, which included the closure of national and municipal/county borders, tourism revenues fell by up to 90% in 2020 (i.e. by almost EUR 1 billion). This trend then continued at the beginning of 2021.
The new Montenegrin government, which took over the leadership of the country at the end of 2020, therefore set one of its main goals as restarting the country’s economy. Based on this decision, the Ministry of Economy was divided into two separate departments with a clearly divided agenda. Thus, the Ministry of Capital Investments and the Ministry of Economic Development were created. The main tasks of both ministries include the creation of a plan to diversify the country’s economy. The Ministry of Economic Development then set itself the goal of ensuring the diversification of the tourism sector so that Montenegro is able to offer foreign clients quality services (supported by good infrastructure) throughout the year.
In response to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the previous government supported the country’s economy with three packages, while in the first and second aid packages, Montenegro invested a total of EUR 175 million (approx. 3.5% of GDP) in saving the economy, and in the third package, 240 million was released EUR. The content of these three packages was the provision of subsidies to companies and businesses that had to suspend operations due to the coronavirus crisis, the government also contributed to employee wages, the obligation to pay taxes was postponed, other reliefs came in the form of preferential rent payments, cancellation of the fixed basic amount for electricity, etc.
At the beginning of 2021, the new government approved a new wave of aid for companies and citizens most affected by the covid-19 pandemic. The total value of this package reached EUR 163 million, part of which consisted of one-off contributions to pensioners, the unemployed, families with three or more children, etc. The government also decided to expand the list of areas and specializations threatened by the pandemic. (Companies that do business in these areas have the right to ask the state for financial assistance). Part of the fourth package were tax breaks for companies that employ people registered at the Labor Office.
Post-COVID-19 opportunities for foreign exporters
Mining, mining and oil industry
In the coming years, the government of Montenegro would like to significantly increase the use of available mineral resources by revitalizing or expanding existing mines and opening new ones (for example, the Maoče site). In 2019, a geological survey of the Montenegrin seabed took place in order to verify the occurrence of mineral resources (gas, oil). The new government followed up on the steps taken by the previous government and is preparing to build a test oil well about 26 km from the coast between the seaside towns of Bar and Ulcinj. By the end of 2021, it could then become clear whether the estimated 51 billion m³ of gas and 438 million barrels of diesel are hidden underground under the Montenegrin waters. (These estimates are based on 3D images taken as part of a joint project by the Italian-Russian consortium ENI-Novatek and Greece’s Energean.)
Luka Bar AD (Port of Bar) has included in its current development plan a proposal to build an LNG liquefied gas terminal. The storage capacity is to be 20,000 m 3. For several years now, decisions have also been made to privatize this company, which is majority owned by the state.
According to allcountrylist, the most important source of electricity is the 1st block of the thermal power plant Pljevlja. In 2018, the government decided on its ecological reconstruction worth more than EUR 100 million. In November 2019, the EPCG selection committee (Elektroprivreda Crne Gore, Energetické závody Černé Hora) chose as the winning project for the reconstruction of the thermal power plant Pljevlja I the offer of the consortium of companies DEC International, Bemax, BB Solar and Permonte. The project also includes the heating of the city of Pljevlja, the revitalization of the Maljevac landfill and the construction of a wastewater treatment plant.
The new government announced shortly after its appointment that it was withdrawing from the construction of small hydropower plants. However, he wants to make more efforts in the area of researching the possibilities of building wind and solar power plants. Looking forward, Montenegro would like to become an exporter of electricity. For this purpose, a submarine cable connecting Montenegro with Italy was laid. The start of work on the gasification of the country will depend on the implementation of the construction of the Adriatic-Ionian gas pipeline, or on the results of the seabed survey (see section Mining, mining and oil industry).
Montenegro’s previous dependence on tourism has led government officials to decide that the economy must be diversified. The impact of the coronavirus crisis confirmed the correctness of this decision. The previous government had already started making increased efforts in the area of supporting the development of modern technologies. Municipalities (regions) are starting to build so-called technological incubators to support innovative companies, at the end of 2019 a tender was announced for the construction of a new National Science and Technology Park in Podgorica, etc.
It is obvious that a change in the direction of the Montenegrin economy cannot be achieved immediately, and it is not even possible without the help and cooperation of partners from abroad. Montenegro is open to cooperation both within the Western Balkans region and with the countries of the European Union. There is thus potential for the application of Czech companies as well.
Water management and waste industry
By 2035, Montenegro plans to invest more than EUR billion in environmental protection. The financial resources of the state and municipalities are very limited. Montenegro has significant reserves of quality water, but it cannot use it effectively on its own (it imports a large amount of bottled water from Serbia or Italy). These water sources are also suitable for artificial fish breeding. Problems with the treatment and regulation of waste and sewage water persist in a number of places in Montenegro.
The capital city of Podgorica will invest approximately EUR 55 million in the wastewater treatment system in the coming years, and funding for this project has already been approved. A number of municipalities (regions) will be forced to prepare plans for the construction of wastewater treatment plants, water networks, waste incinerators and landfills. A separate chapter is the revitalization and removal of numerous wild landfills or the reclamation of the tailings pond near the aluminum production plant (KAP) in Podgorica.
Rail and rail transport
The railway infrastructure is outdated, so the government supports its gradual modernization. The backbone line Bar–Podgorica–Belgrade is currently being modernized, where, in addition to safety features, tunnels, bridges and tracks are being reconstructed. The entire railway network of Montenegro will have to replace the existing sleepers with concrete sleepers. The expansion of the railway network in the directions Bijelo Polje – Maoče and Bijelo Polje – Kosovo is in the planning phase.
The railway rolling stock is also obsolete. Černá Hora plans to buy three train sets for intercity transport. The value of the contract is EUR 15 million, while the financing is to be provided by the EBRD and the government is to provide a state guarantee for the loan. In addition to the delivery of new cars, opportunities for Czech companies can also be seen in the repair and revitalization of used locomotives and wagons.
In the national medium-term plan, railway infrastructure reconstruction projects are identified as one of the transport priorities for the next three years. From the state budget and from the promised financial support of international institutions (IPA, WBIF, EIB, EBRD), a minimum of EUR 1million is to be allocated for the reconstruction of the railway power supply system of part of the track in the northern region of the country (towards the border with Serbia), reconstruction and modernization railway station Bijelo Polje, replacement of the signaling and safety system on the line Bijelo Polje – Podgorica and Podgorica – Bar, rehabilitation of tunnels and bridges, etc.