SEATTLE — Macedonia, a country situated in southeastern Europe, was once part of Yugoslavia and is known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia due to the name ambiguity with a Greek province bearing the same name. Due to its location, Macedonia functions as a major junction of communication between various countries in Europe. Thus, infrastructure in Macedonia has become extremely important to the country’s development after independence.
For Macedonia to become a transport hub and a center for the distribution of products to European markets, developing infrastructure is a necessity. The backbone of the country’s road network is made up of two pan-European corridors: Corridor VIII that runs from east to west and Corridor X that connects north to south.
A 2016 report from the International Monetary Fund suggested that the public transport infrastructure and percentage of paved roads are very low compared to other western Balkan countries and needs massive improvement. It also states that from 2014 to 2018, the country expects to invest 2-3 percent of its GDP in road infrastructure.
Between 2006 and 2015, 39 regional and national roads were newly constructed or restored by investing about €93 million. To date, the country has 14,182 km of surface roads, which consists of 242 km of motorways, 911 km of national roads, 3,771 km of regional roads and 9,258 km of local roads. Thus, it represents a good start for the further development of road infrastructure in Macedonia.
The railway infrastructure in Macedonia is managed by Macedonian Railways and has been operational since the mid-1990s. Initially, the company incurred huge losses and by the end of 2004, it had accrued €143 million in debt. In June 2006, the government of Macedonia together with the World Bank signed a Railway Reform project, taking a new organizational approach and also modernizing the railway system.
At present, the country has 925 kilometers of electrified railway networks connected to several cities. In 2017, during the Western Balkans Summit in Italy, the European Union declared it will finance railway links between Bulgaria and Macedonia, which has an estimated cost of €600 million. New construction, as well as the restoration of existing railways, is taking place both in Corridors VIII and X.
Macedonia has two international airports under the management of Turkish company TAV. One is Skopje “Alexander the Great” International Airport, which serves two million passengers per year and was recognized as the best European airport in 2016 for its quality of service. The Skopje airport has a number of direct and indirect flights connecting to major European cities.
The other airport is Ohrid “St. Paul the Apostle” Airport, which has a capacity of 1000 aircraft and flies 60,000 passengers annually. It is used as an alternative to Skopje airport and serves as a tourist facility.
The country has modern and digitized telecommunications systems. Eight companies offer fixed line communication service while mobile services are offered by three operators. The country also has excellent internet access facilities with wireless, dial-up, ISDN, ADSN and fiber optic internet connections available. Internet service is provided by various service providers with varying rates and service quality. Makedonski Telekom is the major provider of fixed line communication and internet.
Macedonia has two thermal power plants with a capacity of producing 800 MW of electricity and several small to large hydropower plants producing 650 MW of electricity. The total power generated by these plants does not satisfy the country’s overall domestic need for electricity.
The country has a significant source of lignite and coal. The electricity generated from this source is mostly used to support the steel industry. Natural gas is imported from Russia using Corridor VIII, while oil is transported through a 213 km pipeline from Greece to Skopje using Corridor X.
Since July 2016, the government has taken gradual steps to liberalize the electrical market to increase competitiveness, decrease the per unit price and make it affordable for families and small companies.
The economy of Macedonia owes to its location, which acts as a connecting hub to various parts of Europe. With help from the World Bank and the European Union, infrastructure in Macedonia is improving due to the economic growth of the country.
– Mahua Mitra