The State Aid Control Commission expressly approved subsidies for loans in the tourism and hospitality industry at the end of the election campaign during the last parliamentary elections. The loans are provided via the Investment Development Fund (IDF), show the documents possessed by MANS Investigation Center and the daily “Vijesti”.
Ten days before the parliamentary elections, on 7 October, the Commission approved by subsidies on the interest rates on loans to companies and entrepreneurs in the tourism and hospitality industry, at the request of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, then headed by Branislav Gvozdenovic.
Only two days earlier, on 5 October, the Ministry requested the assessment of conformity of subsidy interest rate on loans in the tourism, which had been previously approved by the IDF. Thus, on the eve of parliamentary elections, which were held on 16 October, a lower interest rate was granted in 2016 for loans in this area.
According to official documents, the Ministry allocated €50,000 for interest subsidies in 2016. In order to get lower interest rates, entrepreneurs were supposed to have had granted an IDF loan in 2016 for projects involving renovation of facilities with three stars or less, in order to upgrade them to the four-star or five-star level, or to build a four-star or a five-star hospitality facility.
The documents state that “the purpose of the program is support through the improvement of existing and creation of new small and medium enterprises and assistance to entrepreneurs in the tourism and hospitality industry through subsidized interest rates on their loans.”
“This would improve tourism facilities and conditions for increasing the number of jobs and total income in tourism,” according to the documents of the State Aid Control Commission.
The Ministry rejects the possibility of political influence for electoral purposes. They claim that the government verified the information on a lower interest on 11 November: “Therefore, there could not have been public invitation announced before the government’s verification,” it is stated in the official response of the Ministry.
MANS Investigation Center and the daily “Vijesti” have earlier announced that the 16 days after the parliamentary elections were announced, the Government of Montenegro adopted a decision that approved the disbursement of funds to six companies, in the total amount of nearly €2 million, the aim of which was encouraging of direct investment and employment. A third of this money was planned in 2016, and approved projects envisage hiring 157 people by the end of the year.
In addition, after the elections were called, namely in August and September, the government activated two projects of financial support to entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises, which focused on streamlining operations and increasing employment. The total value was €130,000.
The Cluster Development Program, worth €50,000, was significantly increased in the year of election 2016. Thus, the state aid could for the first time be allocated to NGOs and not only to companies. The cluster assistance allow the purchase of production equipment, as long as they commit to new employment.
This text is created with the support of the European Union and the U.S. Embassy Podgorica. Network for Affirmation of Non-Governmental Sector – MANS is solely responsible for the contents of this article, and the views taken herein shall not in any case be considered as those of the European Union.