Dec 13, 2021

Interview of the CEO/President of the Management Board of “Alkaloid” AD Skopje Mr. Zhivko Mukaetov, on the Radio Kanal 77’s program “Stadion”


In the past several months and days, the Chamber of Commerce is on the offensive and rather proactive. What did the Chamber lack so far? Was it insufficiently active, was it influenced by politics instead of the other way around?

I would not say the Chamber was inactive. I think in the past year and a half, since the health crisis broke, the Chamber proved to be a firm pillar and support to the Macedonian economy and citizens. We saw it when it organized the supply of vaccines and helped with all the various proactive measures. The Chamber is becoming more present and visible and an added value to all its members. We can always turn to the Chamber for numerous topics and get interesting information. We shall not forget that the Chamber is very active in the Western Balkans initiative among the six WB countries. I think it adapted well and is quite present in the field of European Union funding programs. It helps to channel the economic activity in the country and connects it with the western economies.

You have a positive attitude towards the Open Balkans Initiative. However, it seems there is a politically motivated opposition in the region. What can the Chamber and the business people do to bring it to life, especially in terms of the economy?

I am very much in favor of the free movement of people, products, and services. Trucks should not wait for hours to cross borders. I think it is the only way forward. All our markets are small and insignificant from a global economic perspective. If we fail to operate in harmony, we will not move forward. We should use the CEFTA agreement and all other benefits to ensure the free movement of the labor force. It is evident that many young people are leaving the country and going to Germany, Switzerland, and other countries. It is, therefore, crucial to allow for this movement here so that we can learn from each other and make progress. The exchange of experience and knowledge matters very much.

Your company is among the few that make acquisitions outside of Macedonia, in the region, in Europe, and beyond. What do Macedonian businesspeople lack? What would you advise them? Do they need more courage, training, education, or something else?

I think it is vital that they have confidence in themselves, their management teams, and in the companies they manage. I would not like to give unsolicited advice to anyone, but our handicap is that Macedonia is a small market. If we fail to step outside of our market, even outside of our region, then we will limit our reach. By investing in our people, making them more educated and skilled, investing in technology and environment-friendly standards, we can check our competitiveness in fiercely competitive markets. If we are competitive there, it will be much easier for us to operate in our region as well. I think every company should test its abilities and face the challenges of international competition. However, it must be done step by step, first at home, then in the region, and beyond.

Education is obviously problematic. The competent staff is leaving the country. What shall we do to change the structure? Do we have to change the curricula at universities? We should surely start with elementary and secondary education. I can see the Chamber is now focusing its attention on education. It was called vocational education in the past, now you call it dual education.

We need new generations, with new skills, capable of following the latest technological developments. The educational system must adapt to the needs of the real economy. It is a significant challenge when someone comes with particular education. It takes plenty of time for an individual to enter the system and start to contribute. In this sense, we are trying to do something in several fields. Thus, together with the Medical High School, we have established the first dual-education class. We have internship programs with several faculties. Hundreds of third and fourth-year students attend internship and mentoring programs at Alkaloid. And then, after they graduate, they continue working at our company. If you ask me about Macedonia, I am sure that human resources are our biggest challenge at the moment. We strive to build a company of satisfied, dedicated, and motivated people.

As a large company, do you have problems with corruption, with the administration and red tape, or are you, perhaps, too large that they dear to do that to you?

We do not have such problems. However, it is a fact that the administration should be faster, more diligent, and more efficient in performing its obligations. As you know, any waste of time in the maze of red tape is a waste of resources for private companies.

There are many public opinion surveys about the image of various institutions and professions. Judges and the judiciary are perceived rather poorly, while politicians rank the lowest. What would you say about businesspeople's image? Do they still bear the poor aura from the times of transition, or are things slowly changing?

I think businesses are struggling to find their place under the sun, and it is not easy for them at all. Each company’s position is rather specific. We face numerous challenges. We had a long transition, and our economy is still insufficiently integrated into the European and global markets. I do not think it is easy. However, I can see that our business community has potential. I think we proved to be rather sturdy and resilient to various challenges. I am sure the Macedonian business community can adapt to the future.

I asked this question because, as you can also hear, the impression is that the Macedonian businessmen, the oligarchs, are the main obstacle on our path to the European Union because they fear competition.

That is a ridiculous statement, in my opinion. It especially applies, for example, to our company that exports over 65% of its production. We are present in over 40 countries worldwide. We compete in the United States of America, in the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia. I see no reason why we would be against it. We even think that all competition is welcome. I pray that we start EU accession talks as soon as possible and fully join that club.

In political circles, your name is often mentioned as a possible candidate for prime minister or for some other office. How would you respond to it? 

My response is quite simple. I see my happiness in my family, in my company, and in socially responsible activities in the fields of sports, culture, health, and pharmacy. I continue to focus my activities in these fields, striving to make Macedonia a better place to live. I must admit, I am not happy seeing that people in my company are, perhaps, doing well now, while plenty of other people in this country are not doing so well.