Orešković expressed his confidence that his government will increase the efficiency of the public sector and the number of small and mid sized businesses, disencumber the business sector of a profusion of “parafiscal” contributions levied on it and turn the country into an energy leader. The prime minister also noted that the healthcare system needed to be more effective and that the labour pool needed to be strengthened by focusing on education and the needs of the market through a synergy of the academic community and the market sector.
Tihomir Orešković, a native of Zagreb and a returnee from Canada, is the new President of Government of the Republic of Croatia – proud to put the knowledge he has gained working in the private sector abroad at the service of Croatia. This forty-nine year old non-partisan nominee presented the programme of his new cabinet of twenty ministers and two deputy prime ministers to Croatian Parliament on the 22nd of January. His professional pedigree was recognised by the Patriotic Coalition, led by the Croatian Democratic Union and the reformist Most (Bridge of Independent Slates), in the wake of the defeat of the incumbent Social Democratic Party and its Croatia is Growing coalition. The session of Parliament wound up a six-week post election crisis of an apathetic political scene dominated by two parties, ushering in a specialist dominated government.
In place of the customary speech Orešković presented the new government’s four-year programme with a thirty-minute PowerPoint presentation, graphically highlighting the objectives his team plans to put into motion to speed up the country’s recovery in the aftermath of a six-year recession and to restore balance to Croatia’s social market economy – all against the backdrop of his history in the corporate culture, i.e. big money. A political novice but private sector adept, he quietly awaited the vote in Parliament, passing with a respectable majority of 83 votes in favour, 61 against and five abstentions.
In his term Prime Minister Orešković says he wants to transform Croatia by 2020 in three critical areas: economic growth, competitiveness and quality of life. Citing the words of American general George S. Patton, “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory,” Orešković aimed to motivate the entire political arena and Croatia’s citizens. With this synergy of the post-industrial society of Our Beautiful Homeland there is a better prospect for achieving Orešković’s and our dream of securing an annual GDP growth of better than three percent and a reduction of the public sector debt to under eighty percent of the GDP by 2020, slashing the deficit to under three percent of the GDP by 2017, increasing exports to thirty percent, reducing unemployment to under fourteen percent and achieving the much desired hike of the per capita GDP by 2,000 euro. The objective – along with pushing for foreign investment – Orešković emphasised, is to invest a billion euro with the aim of making the most of the European funds at our disposal and to draw on at least a billion euro a year of the 10.8 billion available to Croatia. The share of exports in the GDP is the lowest when compared to other transition countries, Orešković notes, and increasing exports by 30 percent will be a critical factor in growing the GDP and competitiveness, which would send a positive message to our society. The prime minister also said that innovation could see Croatia among the top fifty in the world in terms of competitiveness.
Orešković expressed his confidence that his government will increase the efficiency of the public sector and the number of small and mid sized businesses, disencumber the business sector of a profusion of “parafiscal” contributions levied on it and turn the country into an energy leader. The prime minister also noted that the healthcare system needed to be more effective and that the labour pool needed to be strengthened by focusing on education and the needs of the market through a synergy of the academic community and the market sector. Orešković added that he was aware that Croatia has one of the smallest labour force contingents in relation to population size in Europe. He also noted, however, that Croatia has massive potential that has to be activated to the benefit of its citizens as has been done in neighbouring EU countries such as Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The prime minister said he felt that 2016 was a critical year in terms of a reduction of the public debt and the budget deficit. Orešković said that his government would focus its efforts and identify the places where the public debt can be cut by 500 million euro to send a very strong message to the European Commission, investors and agencies – that this country is ready to make tough decisions. He also touched on the issue of the migrants currently entering Europe and said that Croatia would talk with its EU partners, keeping Croatia’s interests the primary point of focus.
“We saw a dream come true twenty-five years ago when we liberated Croatia. Our second dream is to create a modern Croatia that will retain its traditions and provide a better standard of living for our children and us. In closing I ask you: if not now – when? If not us, all of us – then who?” Orešković concluded.
Tihomir Orešković is a Croatian and Canadian businessman, president of the Thirteenth Government of the Republic of Croatia. He was born in Zagreb in 1966. He grew up in Hamilton after moving with his parents to Canada in 1968. He graduated from McMaster University in 1989 in the province of Ontario with a major in chemistry. He continued his education at the same university and earned his MBA in 1991 in finance and information systems. In 1992 he began working for the Canadian pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly at various posts. He later moved to the Teva company and in 2009 joined the Croatian pharmaceutical firm Pliva, previously acquired by Teva. From 2014 he served as the Teva financial director for Europe. With his wife Sanja (née Dujmović), also a native of Zagreb, he has two daughters, now attending university in Zagreb, and two preschool age sons.
Today Canadian Croatians – on the wings of modern mobility – are innovative in raising awareness of Croatia, as is also evident from the latest cooperation agreement between the University of Zagreb and the University of Toronto, ranked among the top twenty universities in the world. 150 young people are studying in three courses on the Croatian culture of the Mediterranean, courses created on the basis of this agreement.
Orešković moved back to Croatia six years ago to assume the helm of the Pliva company. Now he has been given the mission of preserving Croatia’s remaining “family silver” and to continue the economy recovery with further reforms of the public sector, education and the legal system.
A businessman of global calibre, he left a very good impression on the Croatian private sector and administration during his stint with Pliva, acquired by Teva more than a decade ago. They laud his competence, business connections and work in the domestic pharmaceutical market. He is most to thank for the recent Teva investment of 400 million euro through the founding of the Shared Service Center Zagreb for the European locations of this multinational firm, currently employing over a hundred experts and developing projects. It is the largest greenfield investment in Croatia in this decade and a measure of the patriotism of Tihomir Orešković – who convinced the Israeli base that Pliva’s human capital is world class.
While Tihomir and his younger brother Eddy were getting an education, their father Dane, a native of the village of Čovići near Ličko Lešće in the Lika region of Croatia was working a factory job and climbing the social ladder in the Croatian community of Canada, become the president of the board of the Hamilton Croatia soccer club in 1979 and assuming the helm of the Hamilton chapter of the Croatian Democratic Union in the early 1990s, says Josip Joe Pavičić, a prominent Canadian entrepreneur and the president of Toronto Croatia, a soccer club that has been inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.
In Zagreb Orešković is part of an influential circle of returnees from Canada that have decided to invest their knowledge and funds in Croatia, hiring and developing ventures in the homeland. Orešković is acquainted with Joe Bašić, the president of the Canadian-Croatian Chamber of Commerce, known to the Croatian public as the organiser of Ultra Europe, the most lucrative domestic electro music festival, in Split – earning the city, the economic capital of the southern Croatian Dalmatia region, over half a billion kuna. Bašić says his friend Orešković is an exceptional man.
Former science, education and sports minister and prominent forensic and genetic sciences expert Dragan Primorac, himself with broad international experience, met with Orešković after his arrival in Zagreb by way of the Croatian-Israeli business club. He says that the newly appointed prime minister has been very active in society.
Having moved from Canada and Puerto Rico to the Netherlands and Croatia, Mr Orešković always stayed in touch with his homeland. Since 2003 he has vacationed in the country ever year, visiting relatives in Zagreb and the Lika and Međimurje regions. His mother, retiree Đurđa Orešković (72), a native of Goričan in the Međimurje region, has fewer opportunities to visit the old country, having dedicated herself to caring for the four children of her second son Eddy (46). He lives with his wife and four children in Burlington.
Text by: Vesna Kukavica