Reuters International

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Long a symbol of archaic office practices, the rubber stamp for approving paperwork is being banned by Croatia as its seeks to streamline business procedures and attract investors.

Foreign businesses have often shunned Croatia, complaining about too much red tape, an unstable regulatory framework and a high tax burden.

Now the centre-right government, which took office in January, is vowing to improve the investment climate as it seeks to nurture growth in an economy that has begun to haul itself out of six years of recession.

Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said Croatia was among the last countries in the European Union to use the time-consuming system of processing invoices, orders and other documents.

"This should be a positive signal to businesses that procedures will be simplified," he told a cabinet session on Wednesday.

Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic hailed it as a step towards "full modernisation".

"The first step, by the end of this year, is to scrap a need to use stamps in the private sector. By the end of the year, we will have made preparations to do the same in the public sector," Panenic said.

Croatia, the newest EU member and one of its weakest economies, posted growth of 1.6 percent last year after six consecutive recession years. This year, the government hopes for growth of 2 percent.

However, many analysts say that without tangible improvement in the investment climate, growth rates will hardly surpass the current rate.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Alison Williams)


 Reuters International