International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Serbia’s NBS introduces moratorium on loan repayment during state of emergency

March 17, 2020

The National Bank of Serbia(NBS) decided on Tuesday to introduce the moratorium on credit and leasing repayment during the state of emergency declared in the country last Sunday to prevent the spreading of the new coronavirus, N1 reported.

That means that banks or leasing companies won’t calculate default interest on unpaid debts and won’t launch the execution procedure or other legal actions against the debtors as long as the state of emergency is in place.

Those who want to service their debt can do that.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a578929/NBS-declares-moratorium-on-loans-repayment-in-Serbia.html

Serbian Finance Minister: Moratorium on loan repayment

March 17, 2020

Serbian Finance Minister Sinisa Mali on Tuesday declared a 90 day moratorium on loan repayments.

“The National Bank of Serbia (NBS) will introduce measures covering a moratorium on loan repayments for a period of 90 days as the second set of measures that we will introduce after lowering the key policy rate and earmarking additional money for public investments and single aid payments for pensioners,” the minister told the pro-government TV Pink commenting government measures during the state of emergency imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.  

A Finance Ministry press release quoted him as saying that the government is preparing measures for the coming period.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a578827/Serbian-Finance-Minister-Moratorium-on-loan-repayment.html

Average Serbian household income lower than expenses

March 16, 2020

The average monthly income for Serbian households stood at 68,446 Dinars (1 Euro - 118 Dinars) in the fourth quarter of 2019 while expenses average 68,658 Dinars or 212 Dinars more, the Republic Statistics Office said on Monday.

A press release said that the average monthly household income and expenses were four percent higher than in the fourth quarter of 2018. Compared to the third quarter of 2019, the average monthly household income and expenses were 2.3 percent higher.

Salaries accounted for 49.2 percent of the household income, pensions for 32.2 percent, farming, and social security payments for 2.7 percent.

Food and drink accounted for 34.3 percent of expenses while housing, water, power, gas and fuel bills accounted for 17 percent and transport for 9.1 percent.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a578495/Average-Serbian-household-income-lower-than-expenses.html

Brnabic: Serbia can benefit from fourth industrial revolution

March 3, 2020

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Tuesday that Serbia could benefit from the changes that digitalization brings and become one of the winners of the fourth industrial revolution.

Speaking at the Kopaonik Business Forum, Brnabic said that Serbia is focusing on solving its problems and improving living standards for its population, a government press release said.

The world is becoming very complex for countries both big and small and Serbia is trying to maintain a careful balance in the political struggle between the great powers through regional stability, she said at a panel on geopolitics in the digital age organized by the Ringier Axel Springer company and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce.

The changes that digitalization brings are a big opportunity for small countries and countries which can adapt quickly, she said, adding that now is the right time for Serbia to fall in step with the fourth industrial revolution “because small countries can become leaders in it”. “The fact that Serbia fell behind in earlier industrial revolutions could now be its advantage in the business world,” she said.

Serbia is used to changes and solving challenges and that is its advantage now, the press release quoted her as saying.

Brnabic also said Serbia had the right to continue with the anti-recognition campaign and rejected Pristina's statement that Sierra Leone did not revoke the decision on recognising Kosovo as an independent state. She also said she would take part in 2020 election campaign at her free time.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574504/Brnabic-Serbia-can-benefit-from-fourth-industrial-revolution.html

Minister says Serbia planning to invest billions in mining industry

March 3, 2020

Mining and Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic told a conference in Toronto that Serbia is a regional leader in mining investments with plans to invest three billion Dollars in the industry over the next few years.

Speaking at the ministerial conference at the PDAC mining fair, Antic said that the Serbian government is planning to invest in upgrades of the mine in Bor and the opening of the Cukaru Peki and Jadar mines, a ministry press release quoted him as saying.  

He said that the main issue are minerals which are in short supply such as lithium, adding that Serbia has lithium deposits which gives it an advantage in the region and globally.  

The minister met with officials from the World Bank who expressed an interest in helping Serbia improve its mining policies and strategies.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574494/Minister-says-Serbia-planning-to-invest-billions-in-mining-industry.html

EIB official says capital investments still low in Serbia

March 3, 2020

Capital investments in Serbia are not at an adequate level despite a rise compared to earlier years, European Investment Bank (EIB) official Dubravka Negre told N1 at the Kopaonik Business Forum.

Negre, Head of the EIB Regional Representation for the Western Balkans, said that developing countries need a good choice of capital investments and oversight of public capital investments.  

The EIB has secured a total of 4.8 billion Dollars for projects in support of key infrastructure sectors and SMEs, industry, the services industry and local government since 2001.  

Negre warned that financial markets are facing problems because of the coronavirus outbreak. “Capital markets are at their lowest level since the economic crisis of 2008. That is definitely something that everyone in the European Union is following carefully. The OECD has warned that global growth could be halved this year and there will be talks about ways to ease the negative effects through additional investments in the economy,” she said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574426/EIB-official-says-capital-investments-still-low-in-Serbia.html

IMF: Serbia needs reforms in many sectors to progress further

March 2, 2020

IMF: Serbia needs a transparent system of wages and clear rules of employment in the public sector

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission Jan Kees Martijn said on Monday that Serbia required improvements in many areas if it were to progress further, the Beta news agency reported.

 In his address to the participants of the Kopaonik (the mountain between Serbia and Kosovo)  Business Forum, dubbed Serbia’s Davos, Martjin said IMF would continue to support Serbia’s Government in its reforms leading to stronger and sustainable growth.

He praised measures that kept low inflation in Serbia, the reduction of unemployment, fiscal discipline and lower public debt.

But, Martjin recommended Serbia’s authorities to work on higher growth rate since the country’s GDP per capita was lower than in the comparable countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

According to him, it is necessary to reduce the current 25 percent of grey economy's participation in the GDP, to improve tax collection, but also to enable easier access to finances to business people to reach sustainable growth.

He added that a transparent system of wages and clear rules of employment in the public sector were also needed, as well as incentive measures to slow down the departure of young people from the country.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574236/IMF-suggests-Serbi-to-reduce-25-percent-of-grey-economy-participation-in-GDP.html

Not even € 900 a month wage would prevent brain drain from Serbia, experts say

March 2, 2020

The brain drain issue that topped a panel during the second day of the Kopaonik Business Forum, on this mountain nested between Serbia and Kosovo, was described as the main challenge not only to Serbia but all Western Balkans countries in years to come, N1 reported on Monday.

 Serbia’s Fiscal Council's analysis shows that increased demand in Western Europe for trained workforce attracts the most valuable resources from Central and Eastern-European countries, making their economic future uncertain.

Those migrations mostly affect the worst organised state with a high level of corruption, the weak rule of law, bad quality of public services like health and education, the Fiscal Council says.

Its experts warn that in the next five years, migration of the young and qualified population from Serbia could additionally rise for even 20-30 percent regardless of the eventual four percent of the GDP.

An increase in wages, even if they reach 900 Euro a month till 2025, would not reverse the current migration trend form Serbia.

The Council’s analysis also shows that there are no adequate measures which would stop the brain drain, but adds that the better quality of institutions and public services could have a positive effect.

The Council says that some 11 million migrants from Central and Eastern Europe, or ten percent of their population, currently live in Western Europe and that the number has substantially risen in the last 20 years.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574254/Much-more-than-higher-wage-needed-to-stop-brain-drain-from-Serbia.html

Average salaries 900 Euro by 2025, Serbian minister says

March 2, 2020

Serbian Finance Minister Sinisa Mali told the Kopaonik Business Forum that the average salary in Serbia would be at the level of 900 Euro by 2025, adding that pensions would stand at around 440 Euro by that time.

The minister said that Serbia has recorded a budget surplus for the fourth year in a row with a growth rate of more than four percent in 2018 and 2019 and a public debt which is under control at around 50 percent of the GDP. He said the unemployment rate is the lowest since 1996 and stands at 10.4 percent. Mali said that 2019 was the best year of the decade based on economic parameters, adding that the average salary in Serbia was higher than 500 Euro.  

The minister said that the government will continue investing in infrastructure as the best model to attract investors and will continue cutting tax burdens. “Living standards are the absolute priority and we want faster growth both because of the elderly and young people who are deciding whether to stay or leave,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a574170/Average-salaries-900-Euro-by-2025-Serbian-minister-says.html

Vucic, Brnabic to IMF: Serbia to continue reforms; IMF: Complete reforms needed

February 28, 2020

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Ana Brnbaic met separately with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday and had the same message – Serbia remained committed to further economic reforms, financial stability and discipline, speeding up the economic growth, opening new jobs and improving the living standard, the Beta news agency reported.

Jan Kees Martijn, the head of the IMF mission said that Serbia's economic results were "very good," adding a special commendation for the successful privatization of the country's Komercijalna Bank, Vucic's office said in a statement.

After the third visit within the PCI, the IMF delegation was mostly satisfied with Serbia's financial results, but warned that "the risks are higher, especially external, while the important programme of structural reforms remains." In that context, Martjin said it was necessary to completely implement reforms stipulated by the PCI regarding fiscal rules and management of public enterprises,  to secure the sustainability of the macroeconomic achievements and incite Serbia's growth potential." The next IMF delegation's visit is scheduled for the second half of May.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a573497/IMF-satisfied-with-Serbia-s-economy.html

Slovenia's NLB buys Serbia’s bank for 387 mil Euro; opposition: damaging deal

February 27, 2020

Finance Minister Sinisa Mali, the New Ljubljana Bank (NLB) Chairman of the Executive Board Blaz Brodnjak and a Board’s member Arcibald Kremser signed late on Wednesday the contract under which NLB bought 83.23 percent of Serbia’s Komercijalna Banka for 387 million Euro, payable in cash after the closing of the transaction, N1 reported.

 Mali said Serbia was satisfied with the price, and NLB reported the finalisation of the transaction was expected in the Q4 of 2020 and was subjected to compulsory regulations of the European Central Bank, Bank of Slovenia and National Bank of Serbia (NBS).

The state RTS TV carried the Ministry statement saying that Serbia’s final income from the transaction would be 450 million Euro due to the interest rate calculated from January 1 this year.

NLB, 25 percent owned by Slovenia’s state, is the only regional financial institution listed at the London Stock Exchange with thew Global Depository Receipts (GDRs).  

Later on Thursday, Milos Jovanovic, a member of the Metla (Broom) movement, called on NBS to disallow the selling of Komercijalna Bank to Slovenian NLB, saying it was damaging to Serbia.

Jovanovic added that 387 million Euro for over 80 percent of the ownership was only 60 percent of the Bank’s book value.

The Bank covers 11 percent of Serbia’s market, its business is stable, it reports growth, and for the last three years had 60 million Euro annual profit.

He recalled that the NBS Governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic had reiterated that Komercijanla Banka should not be solved.

Jovanovic said that if the NBS agreed with the acquisition, it would mean that the individual and party’s interests would be above the institutions, profession and state interest.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a572967/Serbia-sells-its-bank-to-Slovenian-NLB.html

Last December's average net wage in Serbia 508.02 Euro

February 25, 2020

The Republic's Statistic Bureau said on Tuesday that the average net salary in Serbia last December was 59,722 Dinars or 508.02 Euro a month, thus finally crossing once a magic level of 500 Euro, the authorities had been announcing for a long time.

The gross average wage was 82,257 Dinars or 699.77 Euro.

The net salary was 14.1 percent higher nominally, while real wage growth was 12 percent compared to December 2018.

The gross wage rose 14 percent nominally and 11.9 percent in real terms.

The median salary in December 2019 was 44,530 Dinars or 378.80 Euro, meaning that 50 percent of the employees had that amount per month.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a572435/Average-net-salary-in-Serbia-last-December-was-508.02-Euro.html

Serbia’s Ministry launches procedure against Zi Jin Bor for pollution, CINS says

February 24, 2020

Serbia’s Ministry of Ecology launched a proceeding against the Chinese Zi Jin Bor Copper company for discharging of dangerous substances into the air in November 2019, and January 2020, the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CINS) reported on Monday.

Besides polluting the air, the company did nothing to reduce it, and the Ministry charged Zi Jin and the deputy director of TIR branch Boban Todorovic.

The charges include the economic offence which carries between 1.5 and three million Dinars (1 RSD = 0.0085 Euros), fine but a court could pass the punishment equivalent to the damage done.

The Ministry said it controlled the company on several occasions, and in five instances at least it found omissions since Si Jin bought the mining and smelting complex in eastern Serbia at the end of 2018.

The sulfate dioxide concentration in Bor occasionally went up to 8.3 times above the allowed level, the environmental control recorded in November of 2019.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a572193/Serbia-sues-Chinese-company-for-pollution.html

IMF's Sosa: Slow reforms of state-owned companies in Serbia

February 10, 2020

The reforms of the strategic state companies in Serbia progress at a slow pace and that “more efforts are needed to empower the corporative management and secure professional leaders in those companies,” Sebastian Sosa, the IMF Resident Representative in Serbia, the FoNet news agency reported.

Sosa told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that “we support (Serbia’s) authorities’ intention to, helped by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Developments (EBRD), prepare a document on the ownership over state companies, by July this year.”

IMF ranked Serbia at the 15th position out of 20 countries from Central and Eastern Europe reviewed based on state-owned companies’ governance in 2018.

RFE said that the biggest challenge Serbia faced was the implementation of the IMF recommendation regarding the reforms of the largest state-owned Electric Power company (Elektroprivreda Srbije).

"Serbia earmarks two percent of the GDP for the state help or three times more than the European Union members, and that the bulk of that money goes to the state-owned companies," Dusko Vasiljevic of the World Bank says.

EPS’ cumulative loss in 2018 was a billion Euros, according to the Business Register Agency.

The company is led by Milorad Grcic, a member and an official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) led by President Aleksandar Vucic. Grcic has held the position as an acting director since 2016.

The runner-up was Srbijagas with some 949 million Euros. The long-time director is Dusan Bajatovic, a member of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), the leading SNS coalition partner.

The third place was occupied by the state-owned Putevi Srbije (Serbia’s Roads) firm, led by Zoran Drobnjak, from SNS, as an acting director for the last nine years. The company ended 2018 with 93 million Euros in loses.

In 2019, the Government additionally helped Koridori Srbije (Serbia’s Corridors) three times with a total of 23.7 million Euros to finish the construction of Corridor 10.

In 2018, Serbia allocated over 300 million Euros from the budget to help the state companies, according to Dusko Vasiljevic, from the World Bank (WB) office in Serbia.

He tells RFE that country earmarks two percent of the GDP for the state help or three times more than the European Union members and that the bulk of that money goes to the state-owned companies.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a568034/IMF-s-Sosa-Slow-reforms-of-state-owned-companies-in-Serbia.html

Experts warn Serbia not implementing emission reduction plan

February 10, 2020

An official of the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI) told Monday news conference that Serbia’s National Emmission Reduction Plan (NERP) was not implement in 2018, adding that there are doubts about whether it was implemented last year.

RERI Program Director Mirko Popovic said that “seven facilities covered by the plan exceeded the maximum annual emissions of sulfur dioxide ïn 2018 and no one was held accountable”.  

He recalled that the Serbian government amended the NERP on January 30, 2020, two years after its implementation was supposed to start and 15 days after the Energy Community Secretariat launched proceedings against Serbia for failing to implement the NERP. Serbia accepted the obligation of implementing the Energy Community Large Combustion Plants Directive by either limiting emmissions from individual plants or Implementing the NERP, both of which it failed to do. The year 2018, as the date to start implementation, was deleted from the amended NERP, the RERI said.  

Popovic warned that the fact that the government adopted an amended NERP does not guarantee its implementation in the 2020-27 period.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a568160/Experts-warn-Serbia-not-implementing-emission-reduction-plan.html

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