Minister Risto Penov, speaking at the “Citizens First Shaping Future for Improved Local Services” conference, emphasized the positive trend in fiscal decentralization and the rise in municipal revenues. He highlighted the need to push forward with digitizing local services, aiming for increased efficiency.

Penov highlighted the complexity of the digitization process but expressed readiness, with donor support, to initiate concrete steps, especially in managing public finances and enhancing tax collection at the local level.

While citizen satisfaction with municipal services remains generally high, a recent survey showed a slight dip in satisfaction with municipal management. Notably, concerns regarding corruption have risen from 5% in 2017 to 23% in 2023.

Orce Gjorgjievski, President of ZELS, emphasized their persistent request for greater financial stability for local self-governments, advocating for a higher share of VAT and personal income tax to be allocated to local governments.

Ambassadors Véronique Hulmann of Switzerland and Ami Larsson Jain of Sweden emphasized transparency, accountability, and efficiency as pivotal in decentralization efforts. They highlighted the importance of local governments’ responsiveness to citizens’ needs and the potential for more efficient fund distribution and community-driven investments.

Armen Grigoryan, UNDP Resident Representative, underlined the crucial role of local development in enhancing citizens’ quality of life and contributing to the country’s broader progress. He emphasized UNDP’s commitment to supporting municipal development in alignment with sustainable development goals.

The conference, spanning Wednesday and Thursday, will address various aspects of local self-governance and the development of local units, fostering discussions on these vital topics.