The root of most of the issues of state-owned power utility Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) is in appointing politically loyal but incompetent and uneducated staff, and in removing experienced people, whom Serbia still has, but they must be given a chance, said Slobodan Vukosavić, president of the Academic Board of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) for energy and professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. He pointed out it isn’t good news that EPS will get foreign management selected by domestic politicians.
“It is the right time to recollect that there are domestic experts, whose integrity and qualifications should be used before reaching out to foreign experts. For decades, the decisions for the energy sector were made under the influence of foreign agendas and recommendations that were uncritically accepted and promoted as dogma, while domestic expertise was marginalized and our long-term interests were often set aside”, professor Slobodan Vukosavić wrote in an op-ed for weekly magazine NIN.
The decision to renew the expert council of EPS is an act of personal courage of the initiator
He points out that the decision to renew and expand the expert council of EPS from December 15 was an act of personal courage of the initiators and their commitment to the interests of society.
According to the professor, recent statements that domestic wisdom has failed to properly direct the development of the Serbian energy sector for 60 years are not true. He argued that EPS continues to gather experts who achieve top results. He pointed out that Serbian experts play a very important role in energy systems in the United States, adding they are heads of leading research centers and authors of numerous scientific works and patents.
That is why Vukosavić is convinced that Serbia has experts who are able to successfully lead the EPS and restore its strength. It is necessary to give them a chance and let them work without the influence of domestic politicians and foreign instructors, in his view.
No manager can successfully lead a power company if they have to fulfill political demands on a daily basis
“No matter how professional he is, no director can successfully lead a power company if on a daily basis he has to obey political requests of politicians who are in charge of his appointment or removal,” Vukosavić writes.
Rehabilitation and return to normal conditions in EPS will require years and large funds, and the root of most of the issues is in appointing politically loyal but incompetent and uneducated staff, along with the gradual suppression of experienced experts with integrity, says Vukosavić.
EPS is no longer Aesop’s goose
For politicians, in his words, EPS is no longer Aesop’s goose that lays golden eggs, because they can no longer take from it, but must invest in it.
“The authorities are distancing themselves from the privatization of EPS, but they are transforming it into a joint stock company. There are numerous examples that privatizing power utilities has a negative effect on energy security and security of supply, and leads to an increase in prices,” he says.
EPS needs professionalization more than transformation
Vukosavić points out the transformation of EPS into a joint stock company does not necessarily lead to privatization, but that the consequences can be just as bad or worse.
The transformation, he believes, creates the conditions for the next steps, paves the way for the influence of private capital and narrows the space for realizing the interests of the domestic citizens and firms.
“EPS needs professionalization more than transformation, and the formation of the expert council is a step in the right direction, but it is more important to leave the management of the company to top domestic professionals and prevent inappropriate political influence,” says Vukosavić.
If it had full freedom of action, the management of EPS could ensure safe supply and profits sufficient for development
But authorities have announced that the management of the company would be given to foreign experts, who will be chosen by domestic politicians, he said and asserted that it isn’t a good solution.
Vukosavić is convinced that if it had full freedom of action, without the influence of politics and foreign and domestic interest groups, the management of EPS could ensure safe supply and profit sufficient for development.