Talking to Serbian traders, we were surprised to learn that most of them talked about the man who changed their attitudes towards the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, saying that he is an honest collaborator who understands their needs and problems, and offers real solutions. They say that Mr. Malinović is a man who represents their interests loud and clear, which he proved by leading a very successful initiative to start charging for plastic bags. According to the words of Serbian traders, the main goal of this initiative was to reduce the use of plastic bags, as well as to increase awareness of the importance of environmental protection. We arranged for an interview with Mr. Malinović in his favorite restaurant, where we found him during a game of chess, after which our interview began.
Mr. Malinović, traders have nothing but words of praise for the initiatives you take. The last one in the row was the initiative to start charging for plastic bags. How satisfied are you with the current results?
Ever since I took over the role of the Secretary of the Trade Association of the Chamber of Commerce two years ago, together with my associates, we have visited and talked to thousands of trading companies in order to recognize the real needs and problems that the trade sector in Serbia faces. Traders have, aside from the constant lack of workforce, emphasized environmental protection as one of the biggest priorities, which is why we started several initiatives in order to reduce pollution. Retail traders quickly accepted the initiative to begin charging for plastic bags, and the main goal of this initiative was to reduce the use of plastic bags, as well as to gradually increase customer awareness of the importance of environmental protection. The first trade chains joined in on the initiative in June this year, and today we can proudly way that most traders of widely-used goods charge for bags, which resulted in a 60% reduction of use of plastic bags within the first two months since the implementation of the initiative. If we compare this result to more developed markets, we can say that we are headed in the right direction. For example, in the Netherlands, free plastic bags were banned in 2016, which resulted in the reduction of their use by more than 70%. At this point in time, most traders support our initiative, and we are especially pleased to say that this includes even the “small” neighborhood stores, and what’s more important, we can see that the people have recognized the positive effects of this initiative and started behaving as responsible consumers.
Have you started any other similar initiatives?
Based on the initiative of our members in the Group of authorized car and car parts importers of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in March this year, an initiative to implement pay grades for imported/exported vehicles was sent to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, with the goal of improving environmental protection. A change was proposed to the Decree on products which become special waste after use, forms on daily records on the quantity and type of produced and imported goods and a yearly report, the way and deadlines for delivering the yearly report, tax payers, criteria for determining tax values, the value and method of calculating payments, in a way which will introduce a division into six pay grades for imported, i.e. produced vehicles, starting with the proposition to free produced and imported electronic vehicles from fees, to the proposition to implement a 12,000 RSD per ton fee for Euro 3 engine vehicles. The same proposal had the goal to implement changes to the attachment 7 of the Draft Law on Fees for the Use of Public Goods of the Ministry of Finance. We expect that this initiative will be realized successfully as well. I believe that our society needs more space for electronic vehicles, which will be done by creating inciting measures for their buyers.
You speak of electronic vehicles with great passion, do you drive one?
Unfortunately, I still drive a fossil fuel car, but I would love to replace it with a BMW i3.
We found you here playing chess. How useful is this game in the business world?
I love playing chess, even though I often say that I am a beginner. Chess teaches me about responsibility – every step you take has consequences. It also teaches me patience, while helping me think faster when making a decision. As a kid, I would play football and table tennis, chess seemed too slow. Today I enjoy chess, which is very dynamic among us amateurs, and unlike football, you can also enjoy a glass of wine while playing.
Before coming to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, you made a name for yourself in the private sector, as a successful marketing and management expert. Where did the need to move to the public sector come from?
Working in the private sector, I would often encounter administrative issues which made business operations impossible. Searching for a solution, in early 2014 I came to a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Mr. Sertić, president at the time, gave me a chance to work as his advisor on improving the business environment, which we started accomplishing step-by-step. Then, with the same goal, I took up a position at the Ministry of Commerce, Tourism and Telecommunications, where we managed to change some important laws within a short period of time, optimizing them for traders, and we created a new Strategy for Trade Development. In addition to this, we made excellent results at the EXPO 2015 Milano. After President Čadež became the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he invited me to take on the role of the Secretary of the Trade Association, which I accepted because trade, as a bridge between the producer and the consumer, represents the most important industry in the country. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia is a great platform which enables entrepreneurs to realize their initiatives, find solutions to their problems, and meet business partners.
What is your next step?
Together with traders, we will continue to work on strengthening the image of traders, as well as start new initiatives. It is important to work on strengthening the capacities in the trade sector, because traders have a constant need for workforce. We are planning on tackling the issue of working on Sundays. In addition, we want to help traders with modernization, because e-trade has brought great changes to the global market, both in the trading process and the consumer behavior. We need more specialization, better category management, as well as educated retailers who will take the relationship with consumers to another level.
Trade and tourism go hand in hand. What are your favorite places in Belgrade, and what should, in your opinion, evert tourist visit in Serbia?
Tourism and trade are, along with IT, creative industries, and food industry our largest potentials for development. I love Kalemegdan and Knez Mihailova Street, especially the part from the Greek Queen restaurant to the building of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Almost every weekend, I spend at least one day with my family on Kalemegdan. Every city I’ve ever lived in has a fortress, and ever since I was a child I loved spending time there. The Belgrade Fortress is special, especially when you gaze at the glorious confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers from it. I think it is important that Belgrade develops its life on the rivers, especially tourist attractions such as Kalemegdan and Vinča. I believe that Vinča, as one of the cradles of the European civilization, has a lot of potential as a global tourist attraction, especially if connected to Starčevo and Lepenski Vir. When we speak of Serbia, I believe that God has gifted us as one of the most beautiful countries in the world, which is exactly why I insist on initiatives which have to do with environmental protection. I believe that, aside from Belgrade and the EXIT Festival, which I also love, Danube is our greatest touristic potential and that every foreigner should visit the Iron Gates, as well as the attractions located in the lower Danube region, such as Lepenski Vir, or the Roman heritage sites of Felix Romuliana and Viminacium. I admire the energy which Miško Korać invested into revitalizing Viminacium. Fruška Gora is a special place in my heart. Aside from its spiritual significance, I find it more beautiful than Tuscany and I think it has just as great of a potential as a place of interest. What we generally lack is better destination management, which would enable integral management of certain destinations. Finally, I think that every tourist should visit the Podrinje Region, the old Raška and the Tara Canyon, and I believe that they would enjoy great locally-produced goods in these destinations. I think that the intermingling of cultures which makes Balkan beautiful is what produced one of the most amazing gastronomies, and our wines just keep getting better.
Speaking of wines, what would you recommend?
That is a difficult question, because the list is comprehensive, but if I had to pick three, I’d say: the white Morava wine by the Jelić winery, the Pink Punk rose by the Chichateau winery, and the red Prokupac wine by the Doja winery.