Dnevnik Interview with Nortel CEO, Mike Zafirovski

Source: Macedonian daily Dnevnik

Translated by UMD Staff

Zero Tolerance for Corruption

We want people to believe that we have undertaken this venture with serious dedication and that we will take concrete steps that will make life better, says the head of Canadian Nortel.

Mike Zafirovski, a Macedonian and world-renowned manager, was appointed last year as the Chief Executive Officer of Nortel, Canada’s largest telecommunications company. In the past few years, he has traveled often to Macedonia. He noted that the economy has started keeping pace with world trends. A year ago, Zafirovski and some 20 other successful businesspersons from the Diaspora had the idea to join their efforts and help Macedonia’s economic development. They intend to lobby intensely, but also to develop the Macedonia 2025 project, which envisions the country having an economic growth equal to that of the leading EU member-states. Zafirovski says that he is impressed with the dynamics of the government’s first one hundred days.

How did the idea for Macedonia 2025 come about? How did you connect with the people involved in the project?

It all began one year ago, when President Crvenkovski went on an official visit to Canada and the U.S. Several of the group’s members had already known each other well before that, and we decided to join our capacities and help Macedonia. We consulted about and researched the dynamics between other Diasporas and their relationship with the home country. We then proceeded in building a network of people with the skills and will to contribute to our efforts.

What sort of information did you come across concerning other Diaspora organizations?

We discovered very strong organization within the Estonian and Irish Diasporas. There is also a big initiative in organizing among the Armenian population abroad.

One of the goals of your program is to establish sound ethical standards in the business environment. In Macedonia, a large portion of the business elite has almost institutionalized their disregard for state laws instead of investing in further development. Can this practice be changed?

Corruption is not a singularly Macedonian phenomenon. It is found everywhere. The accounting scandal in Enron and previous mishandlings in Nortel are only a couple of the more prominent examples. Macedonia’s problem is that corruption has permeated in all spheres. Steps need to be taken to root out this problem so that new strata for progress can be opened. This is indeed essential if Macedonia wants to ascend to the EU by 2012.


Your group is called Macedonia 2025. However, people are hoping for a speedier amelioration of the current economic situation. When would we be able to realistically feel the effects of this project?

In the project, we envision three types of objectives: short-term, extended-term, and long-term goals. We want people to believe that we entered in this venture with serious dedication and we will take concrete steps, which will produce palpable effect in a short period. I am aware that there are high expectations for fast and effective results, but I assure you that the 18-year development cycle projected for Macedonia’s economic development is not long. To put it into perspective, the development of China and India, which I visited in the 1990s, was at a very low stage. Ten years later, the former is one of the world’s most powerful economies, while the latter is a leader in IT-resources.

You announced hiring consultants who would single out some economic sectors with the potential for competition on the global market. We have a high number of textile factories, but this branch cannot be internationally competitive. Do you believe, as things are, that we need a reconstruction of the Macedonian economy?

Some sectors that would attract further development need to be chosen, but that does not mean that the whole infrastructure should be overhauled in that direction. Whether that will be tourism, IT-industries, pharmaceuticals, food processing, or another branch, that, I cannot say at this time. After the choices have been made, there will be a two- or three-year period for the effects to be seen. These are the ideas that some of us have, but the committee that will be formed by the end of this year will decide on the consultants, who will then analyze the situation and make investment proposals.

Your extended family has recently been in the media due to some denationalization issues. During this process, your name was also mentioned in connection with a property that you own.

My name was mentioned without my consent and I was deeply disappointed by the event. A court decision concerning the issue was made and it is a decision that I am not contesting. For me, the case is closed.

The Big 20

Macedonia 2025 is 20-strong nonprofit organization. The group includes John Bitove, Jr., owner of a chain of supermarkets and other businesses in Canada; Stan Thomas, former president of a pharmaceutical company and an investor; Louis Turpen, former head of San Francisco International Airport, as well as an executive CEO of Toronto’s main airport; Susan Niczowski, founder and president of Summer Fresh Salads; Lou Naumovski, Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Visa International Service Association; Mitre Kutanovski; and Cento Veljanovski, an Australian emigrant currently working in London was a former aid to President Kiro Gligorov. Venko Gligorov is the Macedonian member, as a representative of the home business sector.


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Previous Dnevnik Interview with Nortel CEO, Mike Zafirovski


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