The Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) has conceived a new online service, the Croatian Products Catalogue, to raise the share of domestic products in public procurement, the HGK said on Thursday.

"Data is entered into the Catalogue by companies and we currently have nearly 600 products in the Catalogue," said Tajana Kesic Sapic, director of the HGK Industry and IT Sector.

With the online catalogue, the HGK has combined in one place information on who makes what in Croatia.

Kesic Sapic said they expected small and medium enterprises to participate more in public procurement, "but we also wish to raise awareness of the importance of promoting domestic products through public tenders and their impact on GDP growth."

She recalled that the Public Procurement Act was about to be amended and that the cheapest offer criterion would be abolished.

Annual public procurement amounts to HRK 42 billion, nearly one third of the state budget, and nearly 13 percent of GDP. As many as 98% of bidders are Croatian but the bulk of the products is not made in Croatia.

"I hope the creators of the law will really take our appeals into account and rectify the irregularities because of which Croatian manufacturers often can't bid. We have been warning for years that the cheapest offer criterion in public procurement causes damage to our economy," said Kesic Sapic.

She believes the number of Croatian products in public procurement after the law was amended would go up by at least 10% and that this will bring HRK 4.2 billion to the national economy.

Illustrating the importance of public procurement for the economy, she said the tenders to be financed with European Union funds over the next five years were worth HRK 100 billion and that Croatian manufacturers must be given a chance to access the bulk of that amount.

She said EU directives did not allow the favouring of domestic manufacturers but that many countries efficiently and subtly protected them without violating regulations.

(EUR 1 = HRK 7.5)

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