Reuters International

Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovics addresses a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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By Igor Ilic

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia will start seeing the benefits of efforts to reform public administration in the next few months, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said on Friday.

Croatia, one of the weakest European Union economies, has often been shunned by investors who complain about too much red tape, frequently changing regulations and a high tax burden. It often takes years to get all the necessary permits to start a big investment project.

"Modernisation of our public administration is among our top priorities as it is the only way for the economy and the country to move forward," Oreskovic told an economic conference, presenting measures which should help the businesses and the citizens to deal with the state more efficiently.

"Entrepreneurs and citizens want and expect fast and quality services as well as legal security. That is what we want to deliver. We hope to see the first tangible results in a few months," Oreskovic said.

He said the key changes would be the rationalisation of state agencies in charge of various public services, introduction of many new electronic services and reshuffling of wage system, including performance bonuses.

"These changes will not be easy to introduce, but we are determined to move forward," Oreskovic said.

Public Administration Minister Dubravka Jurlina Alibegovic said the key features of the overhauled public services would be transparency and accountability.

"At the moment it is still difficult to say if all this will entail job cuts," she said.

Croatia's economy grew 1.6 percent last year after six consecutive years of recession and a three-month old centre-right government vowed to implement reforms needed to boost growth and cut high public debt of 87 percent of gross domestic product.

Next week the government aims to adopt a package of reforms, including those related to the health and pension systems as wells as a privatisation plan.

Brussels requires Zagreb to implement without delay the reforms that would correct macroeconomic imbalances and thus avoid possible corrective measures.

The reforms may face resistance from public sector trade unions who have indicated, after talks with government officials, that they are not happy with how they will be implemented.

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