In order for Montenegro to be in accordance with its Constitution, an ecological state, it must remain small, precious and expensive. Montenegro needs to import intelligence, which means special privileges for high-tech companies. The state should be super flexible, not bureaucratized, said professor Isak Adiges.
Adiges is the founder and president of the Adiges Institute, the creator of the method that bears his name, as well as a renowned consultant to companies and governments around the world.
The reason for the conversation, led by strategic communication consultant Jelena Pavićević, was the established cooperation between California and Montenegro, developed and managed by the ME & US organization, with the aim of investing and exchanging knowledge and experience in the economic and cultural fields.
Pavićević: What is it that we could learn from Israel?
Adiges: Israel is 63% desert, in which there is nothing, no ores, no treasures. Nevertheless, Israel rose to the world level. Today, Tel Aviv is the most expensive city in the world, more expensive than New York, Paris and Rome. Here, one apartment of 40 m2 costs two million dollars. How did it happen? It all depends on what we base our growth on. In Asia, for example they sell labor, since they have a huge labor force and it is cheap there.
What does Israel have? Brain. And this means that Israel has risen to this high level, because there are many start-up companies, which enter the market and are measured in billions of dollars. Tel Aviv is also the most expensive city in the world, where there is a lot of money.
How did it happen? This mostly came from the fact that Russians from Russia came to Israel, and many Russians are well-bred and have a good education, especially in mathematics and physics, and they left Russia where they could not express themselves in that system that does not allow entrepreneurship.
When they came to Israel, they came to an open market, where you can do whatever you want, and everything suddenly exploded. They built thirty companies here and every day, some company goes public with billions of dollars. What it means? Montenegro also needs to decide where it will go, what it will base itself on and what it will cultivate?
Pavićević: What could Montenegro build its economy and society on?
Adiges: Every country should ask, what advantage do we have? Israel is smart.
What does Montenegro have as an advantage? Your nature. I am not saying that Montenegrins are not smart, but that is not their advantage. Jews have been developing brains for 2,000 years though, because if they hadn’t developed brains, they would have disappeared with all the problems we had. That is Jewish power. Montenegro should ask, where is our power? When, at one time, I was a consultant to Montenegrin officials, I wanted to establish an air connection between Israel and Montenegro, because Israelis travel a lot and back then they flooded Turkey, France and Italy.
I invited the owner of the Israeli airline to come to Montenegro. And while I’m waiting for him in Budva, three hours after he landed in Podgorica, I wonder where he is and why it takes him so long to get to Budva. I call him, and he tells me that every 100 meters he stops to take photos and that “this is an indescribable beauty”.
The Montenegrin coast Is something that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and the Bay of Kotor is like Norway in the Mediterranean. Today, people are looking for nature back. Miami has as many big buildings and skyscrapers as you want, and people are looking to escape from that urbanism and go to nature, and they are ready to pay a lot of money for that.
This means that we should go for high tourism, precious tourism and give tourists what no longer exists today. Nature is being lost all over the world.
Also, cultural and art festivals should not be just for the Balkans, but should be international. Because of culture, people can come from all over the world to see something that is different from others. For example. There are many, many classical music festivals where there is another famous pianist or cellist. What’s missing? There are no festivals of folklore and folk music from this part of Europe. It should be offered what is not available anywhere else. People are looking for something that is original, original.
Montenegro should not make mistakes in its development and be a small frog that wants to become a bull, that wants to be Las Vegas, that builds something that it is not. Do not copy, because it is a mistake.
That’s how mistakes are made in business, when someone wants to copy others. You are looking for what is naturally yours and where you differ from others. Money and success are made by selling what no one else has and what “you” are.
That’s what Israel did. Israel says, we have “this” and “that” we will serve. They sell a lot of seminars and incubators to help start-up companies. You have an idea? Come over. We give you a place, money, marketing help, accounting help. Montenegro should do the same.
Pavićević: If we don’t need to copy anyone, who can we emulate?
Adiges: Montenegro, in terms of tourism, can look up to Bhutan, where a night’s stay is 1000 dollars. Precious. In nature. Beauty.
Montenegro had a chance to be the pearl of Europe – an ecological country. This also means being an ecological country that has ecological food, not pizza and all these hamburgers and American awful food, which only brings diabetes and obesity. Montenegro should have its own food. That’s what people are looking for. They are willing to pay double the amount for organic food.
In Santa Barbara (California, USA), where I live, they have very strong laws that determine how to build. You may not build more than two floors. A large part of the city is surrounded by an area where nothing can be built, i.e. to remain natural as it was a thousand years ago. And that’s why house prices in Santa Barbara are high, because people are looking for it. Me in California, I have a house on the coast. One hundred meters of that shore is not my personal shore, but I can allow people to lie on it, and they can swim there and pass by, and it is private only in the sense that no one can pitch a tent on it and live there.
Today, Puerto Rico is a center for emerging currencies. They created a tax system that gives the opportunity to earn more to those who live in Puerto Rico for at least six months a year. That’s why huge amounts of money come to Puerto Rico. The same could be the case in Montenegro.
Montenegro should also emulate Singapore, which has high taxes on industry that requires labor. Singapore has the best internet in the world and everyone makes what can be exported.
Pavićević: What is Montenegro doing wrong?
Adižes: 20 years ago, I told government representatives to beware of mass tourism, because the beauty of the country will be ruined. However, in my opinion, that still happened, with the “Budvanization” of Montenegro, where skyscrapers stop the light of the judge. By the way, I saw that happened with Acapulco, which was the pearl of Mexico, and today even cats don’t go there, because they built it so much that they ruined everything, without solving the sewage system and the necessary infrastructure first. Many decisions have been made that cannot be fixed. Dubrovnik also made some bad decisions, which is why there are no cats there in winter. Dead city. That happened in Malaga as well. This also happened in some tourist cities in Turkey.
Selling the coastline to foreigners also happened in Hawaii. Real Hawaiians sit in huts and look at the beach where they can’t swim.
That is why such an approach must be stopped. The north is still preserved and if similar construction starts there, Montenegro will leave. Mass tourism requires a mass workforce, which Montenegro does not have, because the whole of Montenegro is smaller than one block in Los Angeles. Of the 200,000 people who work in Montenegro, and I don’t know how seriously they work, many want to be in the government administration, all of them want to be in the bureaucracy. Almost no one wants to be a waiter. That is why it will require the importation of labor from poor countries.
There is one principle: You should never have a long-term solution to a short-term problem, and you should never have a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Manpower for tourism is a long-term problem, and not only for the current year, because people from abroad will not come in the short term, but in the long term, which must create social and political challenges. The demographic problem will also cause certain frictions.
Many years ago, I went to a place, which no longer exists, because the Americans also destroyed it, a place on the coast of Mexico, where there was no electricity, TV, telephone, but nothing, and we slept in bungalows for 1000 dollars a night. A thousand dollars a night to escape civilization.
And Montenegro has gone to a civilization with which it has no advantage. It also damaged the Bay of Kotor. What happened to beautiful Kotor? It has become a tourist trap with big boats and small trinket shops. Short-term solutions were created, which bring short-term money, but in the long-term destroy the greatest natural treasure. I haven’t been in Montenegro for a long time, but I haven’t seen any long-term plan in terms of who we are, what we are and where we are going.
Pavićević: How can we attract investors?
Adiges: My experience as a consultant, who works all over the world, is that there are big conflicts between entrepreneurs and the state. The state is constantly demanding more and more taxes and looking to shorten the wings of those who are too powerful, because powerful entrepreneurs threaten the power of the state. This creates a conflict between politicians and capitalists. Many of my clients ask to insure their ownership, because they are afraid that the state will start confiscating their property and they will be left stranded. Because of this, many entrepreneurs flee from one country to another, where they can better realize themselves and realize more opportunities.
In the US, each state has its own laws. In Florida, no one can foreclose on a Florida resident. I suggested that anyone who brings money into Montenegro and keeps it in Montenegro, that is, buys shares or property from them in Montenegro, that it cannot be taken away from them, if they live in Montenegro. I could bring 10 of my clients who will bring 100-200 million dollars to Montenegro and invest them, if they can be sure. I proposed it to Montenegro 20 years ago, which was not accepted by them.
Pavićević: Why didn’t they listen to you?
Adiges: They did not listen to me because it would not be supported by the EU. We can fight dirty money. It would not be good for Montenegro to become a place where “dirty money” comes from, but it can receive clean money.
In fact, Europe wants that money to stay in the EU and not to come to Montenegro. There is another problem. I can understand NATO, because it is a factor of stability in the region. However, why is Montenegro joining the EU? Montenegro wants privileges from the EU, i.e. to get money. There is something in the Montenegrin mentality, which I was told, that Montenegrins were always under some kind of patronage.
To compare it to one story. A farmer goes to the market and leads a cow on a rope. They ask him why he is controlled by the cow, and he replies that the cow is not controlling him, but that he is controlling the cow. They tell him to release the rope, but he says he can’t, because the cow will run away from him.
This means that the one you ask from controls you. If you ask for something, you have to give something, and what is bought with that aid from the EU? Huge bureaucracy from Brussels. Thousands of pages of all kinds of regulations. Great Britain has escaped, and some other countries want to. Little Montenegro should be super flexible, not bureaucratized. It should adapt to different circumstances. EU bureaucracy can suffocate for little money. For Macedonia, I believe that it should be a member of the EU, due to the great national tensions. However, this is not the situation in Montenegro.
And for the Ukrainians, I thought that the Russians would not allow them to be members of the EU and NATO and that they should stick to their independence, because as soon as they decided, that’s what happened. What does Montenegro, seriously, have from the European Union, except that it has ordinary slogans, we will be members of the EU, we are Europeans. It is political populism. Montenegro can gain even if it is not a member of the EU. Now she got into the problem between the EU and Russia. Now because of the Russians coming to Montenegro, you have a problem. 100,000 Russians came to Belgrade because of this war. What kind of Russians? Smart ones, who could go out and who brought money. Montenegro should do the same.
Pavićević: Are there any impressions that you remembered when you were in Montenegro?
Adiges: When I was last in Montenegro, the sewer pipes broke and the guests were told not to leave the rooms, which means that there is no planning and construction is being done “on a large scale”. I told the officials at the time not to allow each municipality to issue building permits, because each municipality does what it wants. Montenegro is a small country, in terms of population, it is not even a single city. Building permits should be centralized and even development should be planned, rather than everyone building as they please. Also, I was there once when there were large demonstrations against the Government.
I said my opinion, why all this is happening. When Montenegrin independence was restored and a state was created, there was a vision and everyone who supported it was together. Since then, the state has been created, but there is no new vision. When there is no vision, the citizens behave like children and start making fun, because they do not know where they are going and where they are coming from. A person, company and society should have a vision and know where you are going, who you are, what you are and what you are for, because if you don’t know, anyone can push you here and there. It’s time for Montenegro to ask itself who we are, what we are, what we want, what we don’t want and how we will move forward. Will Montenegro be a country that will have high criteria to come, stay or live in it, for example. Those who will come to enjoy the beauty of nature and pay dearly for it.
Pavićević: How would you describe Montenegro today?
Adiges: Montenegro is like that joke in which a man goes to a tailor to get a custom-made coat and when he comes to try on, he sees that one sleeve is longer, and the tailor tells him to lower his shoulder a little, so it will fit him and convince him to buy such a coat.…
Therefore, Montenegro allows itself, due to a poorly sewn coat, to be crooked, so that the coat would fit her well. In Montenegro, decisions are like that coat, one decision “this way”, one decision “that way”, which does not look good on it. But who does it suit and who claims it looks good?
Pavićević: What is the situation in California today?
Adiges: People are running away from California today. Socialists have created huge obstacles for business. People go to Texas, Boston and Florida, where the regulations and environment are favorable to business. It can be a chance for Montenegro as well.
Pavićević: Can you give some key tips?
Adiges: We should look at what Montenegro is. Not tactically, but strategically. When mistakes accumulate, you can no longer solve them.
It has to be planned. Without planning everything seems like grab and eat all you can. Importing labor can create problems, demographic, economic, social and political. Industries that require a lot of cheap labor should be avoided. Montenegro should import intelligence. This means, first of all, that special privileges be made for high-tech companies. Education should encourage the learning of planning, system design, programming, that is, dealing with digital technologies. Montenegro should import brains, not muscles. Montenegro must make a policy of what it wants with the coast, what it wants with the mountains, what it wants with the waters.
In order for Montenegro to be, in accordance with its Constitution, an ecological state, it must remain small, precious and expensive.