Issuance Date: April 18, 2012
Deadline for Receipt of Questions: May 14, 2012 by 3 p.m. CETS
Closing Date/Time for Submission of Applications: May 18, 2012 by 3 p.m. CET

SUBJECT: Request for Applications (RFA) Number: RFA-2012-03

The USAID Business Enabling Project in Serbia (Project), a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded contract implemented by Cardno Emerging Markets USA, Ltd., is seeking applications from qualified, legally registered Serbian non-profit, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for a grant to create and execute a PR/Outreach campaign.

The Successful Applicant will be responsible for ensuring achievement of specified grant objectives.

This RFA consists of the following sections:

  • Section 1 – Funding Opportunity Description
  • Section 2 – Award Information
  • Section 3 – Eligibility Information
  • Section 4 – Application and Submission Information
  • Section 5 – Application Review Information
  • Section 6 – Award and Administration Information
  • Section 7 – Annexes

Pursuant to 22 CFR 226.81, it is USAID policy not to award profit under assistance instruments. However, all reasonable, allocable and allowable expenses, both direct and indirect, which are related to the grant activity and are in accordance with applicable cost standards (22 CFR 226, OMB Circular A-122 for non-profit organizations, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 31 for for-profit organizations, and OMB Circular A-21 for educational institutions), may be paid under the Award.

Subject to the availability of funds, the Project intends to provide up to 7,700,000 RSD (Serbian dinars) in total funding to be allocated over seven month period.

The Project reserves the right to fund any or none of the applications submitted. Issuance of this RFA does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Project, nor does it commit the Project to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of an application. Further, the Project reserves the right to reject any or all applications received if such action is considered to be in the best interest of the US Government. Applications are submitted at the risk of the Applicant; should circumstances prevent making an award, all preparation and submission costs are at the Applicant’s expense.

Applicants should submit any questions concerning this RFA in writing, electronically, via email to The deadline for receipt of requests for clarifications/explanations is May 14, 2012, by 15:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. No questions will be accepted after this date.

Applicants should submit applications in writing to: Jasmina Debeljak Maljkovic, electronically, via email at The Closing Date for submission of applications is May 18, 2012, and the Closing Time for Submission of Applications is 15:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. Late applications will not be considered.


Section 1 – Funding Opportunity Description

A. Background

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a contract to Cardno Emerging Markets USA, Ltd. (formerly Emerging Markets Group, Ltd.) for the USAID Business Enabling Project in Serbia. The purpose of the Business Enabling Project is to help the Government of Serbia (GoS) improve the competitiveness of the Serbian economy and its private sector businesses. The overall objective is to assist GoS policy makers, business representatives, experts, and others to improve the business enabling environment and macroeconomic framework. The Project provides technical assistance and training to improve the business enabling environment, support macroeconomic stability, further develop financial markets, and improve and increase business and financial management capacities within government and business. The Business Enabling Project is made up of three components:

  1. Component 1 – Business Regulation and Economic Governance: Assist Serbia to improve its business regulation and economic governance, particularly in those areas where it performs poorly in international competitiveness and business environment rankings, so that it can better stimulate private sector growth and development and attract more foreign and domestic investment resources.
  2. Component 2 – Macroeconomic Policy and Public Financial Management: Assist the GoS and the National Bank of Serbia to improve macroeconomic policy, public financial management, and financial stability. Support efforts to improve GoS capacity to develop and implement fiscal policy.
  3. Component 3 – Financial Market Development: Support means to increase access to finance, including development of non bank financial institutions. Also, support the development of Serbia’s capital markets through improvements in market governance, accounting and disclosure standards. Support Serbia in its efforts to reform accounting and audit standards and practices and assist it in implementing those reforms.

The Project’s activities in Components 1, 2, and 3 are described in more detail on Project’s website:  and

To accomplish reforms in each of these areas the Project helps the Government of Serbia work closely with the private sector and outside experts to make reforms that improve business competitiveness. The purpose of this RFA is to solicit applications to support the Project by providing comprehensive and in depth PR/outreach campaigns in three different areas:  1. Construction permits, 2. Labor law and 3. Access to finance. 

The USAID Business Enabling Project uses a variety of tools to conduct policy reform in Serbia. Because the Project is demand driven, and all activities are based on the priorities of the private sector and the Government, USAID BEP constantly facilitates a two-way communication between government and business. Our efforts include organizing strategic media communications on policy issues, facilitating roundtables on key reforms with the business community throughout Serbia, conducting an annual survey of businesses on major regulatory constraints, and helping the Government to obtain information and feedback from the private sector. Most importantly, the Project helps the Government use input from the private sector to shape policies, laws, and institutional reforms that reduce regulation, decrease burdensome costs, and improve the competitiveness of Serbian businesses.

For policy reforms to be effective, they must respond to the needs of existing businesses and the concerns of wary investors. Reform efforts can be blocked by interest groups who benefit from the status quo, so dialogue between the public and the private sector can create the momentum necessary to move reforms through complex bureaucratic processes.

USAID BEP has already established good relations with all relevant media outlets. Media representatives are aware of the Project goals and are, in most cases, of huge help in publicizing initiatives that we are striving for. Each initiative that we conducted was heavily supported by the media, which resulted in more than 400 media reports from June to December last year. Media representatives are considered as USAID BEP’s key stakeholder in getting the word out, but also as an advocacy tool whenever the pressure for the reform is necessary (which is not rare). 

B. Grant activity Description

The Project works directly with the Government of Serbia, independent experts, business associations, and donor programs to develop and implement business environment, economic policy and financial sector reforms that will enable Serbian firms to compete in domestic and international markets. In the area of business environment reform, the Project’s tasks include improving the policy environment for employment and streamlining the construction permitting in Serbia. SME’s Access to finance is also one of the areas in which Project is deeply involved. So far, USAID BEP organized series of roundtables throughout the country to bring together major problems and constraints of SME’s in accessing finance.

1. Problem statement - Construction permits

USAID BEP’s goal is to develop some of the bylaws necessary to properly implement the recently amended Law on Planning and Construction; implement pilot activities to streamline some inspections related to construction projects; conduct research on priority constraints in construction permits procedures.

Since the global financial and economic crisis began, the construction industry and investments in Serbia have been facing hardships. Large private projects have been stopped, and some of them have only slowly moved forward by fulfilling the requirements for issuance of construction permit or obtaining the same. Currently only major infrastructure projects (mainly financially supported by international development institutions and organizations, as well as by the domestic public bodies) are being conducted. The new Law on Planning and Construction and ancillary by-laws, which affected issuance of the new construction permits, has not appeared to have improved the situation related to issuance of permits. Problems in obtaining construction permits are the most obvious in Belgrade, which is the market with the most investing potential. Consequently, domestic construction companies are facing major problems. In addition to slow procedures for issuing of the construction permits and difficulties in dealing with bureaucracy, developers must contend with expensive residential land, lack of urban plans, as well as a lack of clarity in pricing conversion of land from usage to ownership rights. These circumstances lead to lower level of economic activities and public revenues.

In practice, numerous and various problems arise in connection with all necessary documentation, steps and other elements in order to obtain construction permits: registration of construction land and related legal rights, conversion of land usage rights to land ownership rights, formation of building parcels, conversion from agricultural to building land, obtaining of technical requirements for the design of access to infrastructure, removing of the existing buildings on the land and gaining location permits.

These problems manifest themselves in the World Bank Doing Business indicators.  Serbia ranks 176th out of 183 countries that are on “Doing Business 2011” list (web page:

This rank is two positions lower than in “Doing Business 2010” (174th place).  Table 1 contains indicators and their quantification in Serbia, and its comparison to Eastern Europe and Central Asia region and OECD.

Table 1



Eastern Europe and Central Asia


Procedures (number)




Time (days)




Cost (% of income per capita)




Source: Doing Business 2011

The USAID Business Enabling Project will work in some areas of the construction permitting process in which the project can have impact within project resource limitations. The Law on Planning and Construction underwent its second major reform since 2009. To help the Government of Serbia properly implement the law and make further improvements to laws, procedures and institutions, the Project already issued a grant for a construction permitting study that will be completed by May 5, 2012. This study will be available for bidders upon request and should be used in the planning process of outreach campaign and later on in the execution phase.

Purpose and Objectives

Construction permitting and related problems have been widely covered in both electronic and printed media. The decision makers, relevant institutions, media and general public are aware of the problems regarding constraints to construction permits. But despite advocacy by USAID and many other donors, along with business associations, for urgent changes in legislation and practice, little has been done to improve the situation. USAID BEP will continue to work with our partners in the Government of Serbia and business associations to engage in the necessary legislative, procedural, institutional and human resource improvements that will streamline the construction permits process. Work will be guided by the USAID BEP study on construction permits constraints.  

The PR/Outreach campaign will support the efforts of USAID BEP, other donors, business associations, the national and local Governments and other partners to reform the policies, laws, regulations, procedures and practices relating to construction permitting. The PR/Outreach campaign should engage as much as possible all relevant stakeholders (Ministries, Government of Serbia, Business Associations, local authorities, media representatives, general public and other stakeholders identified by the bidders).

The goals of the PR/Outreach campaign are to:

  • Promote the findings of the study on construction permits constraints (this study will promote recommendations and define major bottlenecks in the issuance of construction permits)
  • Build support for implementation of recommendations from the study
  • Advocate for urgent policy changes and stimulate policy makers to act

We anticipate that the PR Campaign should be carried out in two phases:

  1. Presentation of the key findings and key recommendations of the Study on Construction Permits Constraints
  2. Advocate for the changes, exerting pressure on relevant decision making institutions (using relevant public relations tools/tactics)


2. Problem statement - Reduce the employing workers burden

In Serbia, labor policies, including legislation, employer tax and social contributions, and labor relations, negatively impact firms’ competitiveness and are among the causes of high unemployment and low productivity.

Unemployment is probably the biggest social and economic problem that Serbia faces.  The unemployment rate is 24.4% and the employment rate for 18 to 64 year olds is 45.3%; these figures are worse than neighboring countries and much worse than EU economies.  Employment levels in Serbia are especially low among young and older citizens. Employment rates are highest for persons between 35 and 49 and are lowest for those in their twenties and over fifty. 

While the reasons for these figures include macroeconomic and regulatory problems, labor policies are exacerbating the situation and making it difficult and costly to hire and lay-off employees.  Recent Government of Serbia efforts to increase employment, mainly through subsidies, have had little effect.

Current labor policies also hinder productivity, as flexible work and pay arrangements are limited by the legal framework.  Serbia’s workforce lags behind the figures for the countries in the region. The Serbian workforce appears to be uncompetitive in the region when productivity is put in the context of wages – labor costs in Serbia per unit of goods or services produced are highest among countries sampled in the World Bank Country Economic Memorandum.

Country Worker Productivity * (EUR) Unit Labor Costs
Czech Republic 23,548 0.37
Hungary 20,812 0.42
Poland 18,527 0.36
Romania 12,544 0.38
Slovakia 25,043 0.32
Serbia 12,837 0.54
Source: Eurostat, Serbian Agency for Business Registries * Value added per worker


The regulatory, administrative and financial burdens related to labor and employment procedures and requirements include: taxation of wages and social security contributions, calculation of salary, salary compensation, temporary work, severance, duration of notice of termination, occupational health and safety, and labor inspection surveillance.  There are a number of labor and employment areas that are not regulated in a clear and precise manner, so they remain in the “regulatory grey zone” (e.g., employee leasing), while others are regulated by obsolete regulations (e.g., labor relationship of a foreigner).  It is not surprising that USAID BEP’s 2011 Standard Cost Model study found that the third most costly procedure is labor administration.  And payroll taxation is widely perceived as a big impediment to employment.  In BEP’s Survey of Businesses, 96% of firms say wage taxes and contributions have a negative impact on their business (see  Informal work (“grey and black labor market”) is pervasive (up to million people, according to various surveys), and it is expected to increase.  Furthermore, dialogue between social partners – the Government of Serbia, employers (through associations), and employees (through trade-unions) – is underdeveloped. 

Other issues include: insufficient adult education and training; and active labor market policies. The current Government attempted to introduce reforms to the Labor Law, using the Economic and Social Council as a mechanism for dialogue.  Unfortunately the effort stalled in the Economic and Social Council resulting that the still current Government did not succeed in making even the most fundamental necessary reforms (e.g. elimination of the requirement to pay severance based on an employee’s entire work history)

USAID BEP is providing a grant for a study of labor policies and recommendations to increase employment and workforce competitiveness.

The study should provide a roadmap and action plan for policy and legislative reforms that should be made by the Government. The objective of the study is to provide practical recommendations for policy reforms that are supported by rigorous research and analysis.  The study, which is anticipated to be completed by August 1, 2012, will be available for the bid winner.

Purpose and Objectives

Since Labor policy reform is a difficult political and social issue, a sound, carefully planned and executed campaign with impeccable tactics is necessary. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to help convince policymakers, stakeholders, unions, and the general public that labor policy reform will increase employment and improve competitiveness.  The campaign could support an effort by the Government and business community to develop labor policies, laws and procedures that increase workforce flexibility, productivity and decrease costs, modernize labor relations and improve skills.. The reform effort will require a thorough, in depth, carefully designed dialogue between the Government of Serbia, trade unions, and employers.  Hopefully, the campaign and other efforts will also bring trade unions in the constructive dialogue on these issues. The reformed labor policy should enhance chances for the new employment.
The goal of the PR/Outreach campaign is to:

  • Promote the findings of the Study and recommendations on policies to increase employment and workforce competitiveness
  • Build support for implementation of recommendations from the study
  • Inform relevant target audiences about the impacts of current labor policy environment, highlighting the effects on society, but also giving the human approach of the impacts on citizen
  • Discuss necessary labor policy reforms, highlighting benefits that a reformed system would bring
  • Advocate for the policy changes


3. Problem statement - Access to Finance

Poor access to finance is one of the leading constraints to private sector development in Serbia. This is evident from various data on the extension of credit in the country. For example, private sector credit to GDP is about 50%. In comparison, most OECD countries average between 120% (middle income) and 160% (high income).  Croatia and Montenegro hover around 65%.  Bulgaria and Hungary are at 80%.  Further, the results of the World Economic Forum survey have Serbia ranked in the lower 25% of all countries in access to finance.

Poor access is also evident from the feedback provided from businesses. The results of USAID BEP’s national survey of businesses and four regional roundtables are consistent with these assessments - access to finance is a major constraint to business growth. About 60% of SME’s do not routinely borrow. Of those that do borrow, they are only able to borrow small amounts relative to their assets and reported equity. SMEs are substantially under-leveraged, with the average debt to equity ratio around 30%, compared to 150% to 200% leverage acceptable for banks in developed markets. Costs are high and whether a business borrows or not, a large majority of financing used by SME’s does not come from the financial system.

The constraints to getting finance are varied and are rooted in the financial system, enterprises themselves, the legal environment, and the overall regional economy.

USAID BEP is preparing a White Paper on SME Access to Finance. The White Paper will be a detailed examination of key issues and constraints affecting SME access to finance. The paper will provide: a review of the current situation, trends and challenges for SME’s in getting finance, review the current government policy framework for improving access to finance, a comprehensive range of recommendations to help reduce key constraints and serve as a basis for the government to develop the right policies and incentives to improve the SME financing situation. In addition, it will provide a detailed discussion of the major constraints to getting finance.

BEP’s goals in improving access to finance to SMEs include decreasing cost of financing, increasing the availability of finance, developing new financial products and services. To attain these goals, changes in laws, regulations and behavior on the supply and demand sides are needed.

Increasing access to finance is a complicated undertaking, with many issues, responsible parties, and stakeholders, various actors in the Government of Serbia, National Bank of Serbia, financial sector, and business community have roles in the reforms. Thus, a robust, well-planned, and strategically managed public outreach and communications campaign is needed to engage and network these actors. In addition, policy makers need to be engaged with evidence-based advocacy through the campaign.

Purpose and Objectives

The goals of the PR/Outreach campaign are to:

  • Present key findings of the White Paper on SME’s Access to Finance
  • Building public-private dialogue on SME’s Access to Finance
  • Generate media interest and consequently media reports by utilizing parts of the White Paper findings throughout the campaign
  • Clarify the topic Access to Finance (create awareness and understanding of the nature of the problem)
  • Advocate for suitable policy changes


4. Guidelines for Grant Activities

Bidders’ written proposals must include:

  • Overall concept of the campaigns
  • List of proposed activities (tools/tactics and implementation plan)
  • Timeline for activities
  • Monitoring and Evaluation plan
  • Budget (each line covers campaign and all activities within each campaign)

While the specifics will be set forth in the eventual contract for services, in general, the successful bidder will be expected to strategically plan and implement the PR/Outreach Campaign in support of Construction Permitting, Labor Policy and Access to Finance. The elements of the process will include: developing an overall strategy of the campaign; creatively devising appropriate messaging for the entire campaign (in Serbian with basic translation to English); identifying stakeholders and media outlets to be targeted; proposing the most effective PR tools/tactics that will be implemented; proposing and producing all materials for the successful campaign(media invitations, press releases, protocols, talking points, interviews, branding materials, and other including buying air time or ads – if relevant); executing the proposed activities; monitoring and evaluating the effects of the campaign; weekly reporting on progresses made.
The timings of the campaigns are expected to be:   

  • Construction permits - outreach campaign is expected to start immediately after selecting the bid winner
  • Labor policy - outreach campaign is expected to start in September 2012. 
  • Access to Finance - outreach campaign is expected to start in June 2012. 

During the PR campaigns, all relevant materials, press releases, studies, analyses, presentations should be published on and BEP’s Policy Cafe web page (, in order to be available to the public.

Section 2 – Award Information

Subject to the availability of funds, the Project intends to provide up to 7,700,000 RSD (Serbian dinars) in total funding to be allocated over a seven month period. The anticipated period of performance of the grant is expected to start from June 2012. The Project anticipates awarding one Fixed Obligation Grant under this RFA. Under a Fixed-Obligation Grant, all payments will be a fixed-sum payable upon completion of deliverables, which will be defined in detail during grant agreement negotiations.

Section 3 – Eligibility Information

Eligible organizations shall be able to comply with and achieve the proposed Program Description, Tasks, and Results and have a satisfactory performance record and record of integrity and business ethics.

Eligible organizations include legally registered Serbian non-for-profit, for-profit, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Prior to the award of grant under this RFA, successful Applicants will be required to sign a Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing certifying that the Applicant’s organization does not provide and has never provided assistance to terrorists for terrorist activities. Successful Applicants may also be required to sign other Certifications as applicable to the award. The Certifications are attached as Annex 4 of this RFA.

Ineligible organizations include:

  • Public International Organizations;
  • Entities that have misused USAID funds in the past, organizations that advocate, promote or espouse anti-democratic policies or illegal activities;
  • Political parties or institutions;
  • Organizations that intend to use the grant for religious objectives;
  • Organizations that are on the list of parties excluded from federal procurement and non-procurement programs or the United Nations Security Sanctions Committee.

Section 4 – Application and Submission Information

Applicants should submit applications in writing to: Jasmina Debeljak Maljkovic electronically, via email at The Closing Date for submission of applications is May 18, 2012 and the Closing Time for Submission of Applications is 15:00 hours Local Belgrade Time. Late applications will not be considered.

All applications in response to this RFA shall consist of a technical proposal and a budget proposal. The technical proposal must not be longer than 15 pages in length. Pages submitted in excess of 15 pages will not be reviewed. The cost proposal shall be submitted as a separate file from the technical proposal. In their proposals, the bidders should clearly differentiate description of activities responding to three different areas in question: Construction permits, Labor Law and Access to finance.

Technical proposals should provide detailed and innovative strategies and tactics in each of these three areas to meet the goals stated above.

Bidders are advised to fill in the budget form as detailed as possible. Lump sums will not be accepted. In order to differentiate costs between the three areas, bidders are recommended to develop three separate budgets for costs associated with each of the three areas, and one composite budget with the total project costs. Within each of the separate budgets, bidders should include line items for each proposed activity (e.g. press conference, events, publications, etc.). In addition, bidders are required to provide a brief narrative clarification of budget items demonstrating the necessity of the costs and how they relate to the proposed activities (e.g. through references to the activities in the point 7 of the Application form “Description of Grant Activities”) in the second sheet of the Budget form.  Bidders are allowed to add new lines and modify the budget lines (not Budget Headings) according to the needs of the proposal’s activities. The required format for applications is included as Annex 1 - Full Application Form and Annex 1A – Budget Form.

Section 5 – Application Review Information

Applications will be evaluated in accordance with the criteria set forth below. The criteria have been tailored to the requirements of this RFA. Applications should note that these criteria serve to: (a) identify the significant matters which Applicants should address in their applications; and (b) set the standard against which all applications will be evaluated.

To the extent necessary, the Project may request clarification and supplemental materials from Applicants whose applications have a reasonable chance of being selected for Award. Bidders may be requested to pitch their overall strategy, core messages for the campaign to the Committee. The entry into discussion is to be viewed as part of the evaluation process and shall not be deemed as indicative of a decision or commitment upon the part of the Project to make an award to the Applicants with whom discussions are being held.

Applications will be evaluated by the Grants Selection Committee on the basis of 100 possible points. The weighting of various sections will be as follows:


Maximum Points (100 Total)

Understanding of Key Issues
Methodology, Activities and Outcomes
Staffing/Management Plan
Relevant Past Experience and Performance
Cost Effectiveness
Total Possible Points


  • Understanding of the Key Issues (15 points): Does the applicant demonstrate a clear understanding of the problems/key issues that the proposed grant activity will address? Are the overall goal and objectives of the proposed grant activity clearly stated and achievable? Does the applicant have all stakeholders clearly stated?
  • Methodology and Activities (30 points): Is the methodology (overall concept of the campaigns) to organize the PR/Outreach campaigns clear? Are the tools and tactics stated in detail and how feasible are they?  Are the expected outcomes and impacts stated in detail?  Does the applicant demonstrate how the activities will be executed as to obtain the desired results?  Does the applicant demonstrate an understanding of how to engage relevant stakeholders?
  • Staffing/Management Plan (20 points): Does the proposed staffing/management plan reflect the personnel/management needs of the grant activity? Does the applicant propose personnel with relevant knowledge and demonstrated experience and skills necessary to successfully implement the proposed tools and tactics?
  • Relevant Past Experience and Performance (15 points): Does the organization/consortium have relevant past experience successfully implementing other PR/Outreach advocacy initiatives and how successful they are?
  • Cost Effectiveness (20 points): What resources are provided for the proposed costs? Is the proposed budget realistic, well-thought out, and in-line with the proposed activities? Are the proposed costs reasonable, allowable and allocable to the grant? Is the grantee contributing cost-share or providing in-kind support?

The selection of the Applicant for award will be made by the Project’s Grant Selection Committee. Prior to the award of any resultant grant agreement, the Project must obtain prior approval from USAID.

Section 6 – Award and Administration Information

Before the applications’ specified expiration date, successful applicant(s) will receive written notice from the Grants Manager informing the applicant(s) that the Project either intends to award a grant to the applicant without negotiation, or that the Project intends to engage the applicant(s) in further negotiations with respect to a potential grant award, during which details of the grant agreement will be discussed including a review of budget and work plans proposed by a bidder. Negotiations conducted after the receipt of an application do not constitute an obligation on the part of the Project to award a grant. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified in writing by the Grants Manager.

Any resultant award will be subject to the terms and conditions of the Prime Contract for the USAID Business Enabling Project (for US organizations: 22 CFR 226, OMB Circulars, and the Standard Provisions for U.S. Non-governmental Recipients; for non-US organizations: Standard Provisions for Non-U.S. Non-governmental Recipients).

Section 7: Annexes

Annex 1: Full Grant Application Form and Budget Form
Annex 2: Certifications





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