New government focuses on economy, corruption fight


The new Serbian government, led by Socialist Ivica Dacic, marked 100 days in office this month.

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 24/11/12


"The vital functions of the state, which were in jeopardy, were secured in just three months," Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said. [AFP]

The new Serbian cabinet marked 100 days in office in November, with Prime Minister Ivica Dacic of the Socialist Party of Serbia highlighting the prevention of state bankruptcy as the biggest success.

"We found an empty treasury and consolidated state finances. Salaries, pensions and welfare are being paid out regularly … The vital functions of the state, which were in jeopardy, were secured in just three months," Dacic told reporters earlier this month.

Dacic said further priorities would include halving the budget deficit, which is currently around 7 percent, saving in the public sector and increasing production. According to analysts, the period was marked by efforts toward avoiding state bankruptcy, continuing negotiations with Kosovo and toward stepping up the fight against crime and corruption.

Sasa Djogovic, an associate at the Institute for Market Research, told SETimes that the new government managed to prevent the "Greek scenario" from happening in Serbia, but he added that the danger had not been fully removed.

He said that the government, unlike the previous one, created an ambitious budget for 2013.

"However, this cabinet has not presented a clear plan of restructuring the public sector and the new budget is mostly based on increased taxes," Djogovic said. Dejan Vuk Stankovic, sociology professor at Belgrade University, said the government now has "room to establish stability on the social and economic plane, create preconditions for more dynamic economic development and resolve the Kosovo issue."

But, he said in regards to Kosovo, the government faces "unambiguous and direct" demands by Brussels, on which the next step to the EU -- obtaining a negotiation date -- also hinges.

In a bid to overcome that problem, Dacic took a step that his predecessor had found unthinkable -- he met with Kosovo Premier Hashim Thaci.

Dacic, under the mediation of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, met with Thaci twice and announced tht Serbia would implement of all agreements reached by the previous government.

"Serbia will be expected to do much more in order to secure a starting date for membership talks and a ratcheting-up of pressure is inevitable," Ian Bancroft, the co-founder of the Transconflict organisation, told SETimes.

One of the new government's bigger promises to the citizens was an uncompromising battle against crime and corruption. That field is under the jurisdiction of Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

"We have initiated a fierce fight against corruption and crime and that is a zero-tolerance fight against the worst plague of modern Serbian society. Now we are working on about 30 cases every day, which illustrates the scope of the huge battle being waged," Vucic said. However, analysts said the government has a ways to go on that front.

"Only after we see the government arresting not only people from the opposition, but also from its own ranks, will I consider that to be a serious plan, and that has to happen soon because there is too much talk and too little action in court," Milan Nikolic, of the Centre for the Study of Alternatives, told the Belgrade media. Citizens have different opinions on the government's results.

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Tijana Radovanovic, a pharmacist from Belgrade, says it is too soon to draw any conclusions.

"Life is very difficult, salaries and pensions are low and it is small consolation that their regular payment has been secured. We cannot wait, the sooner the ministers realise that the better it will be for everyone. But it's good that there is a different government, it's good to shuffle the cards a bit," she told SETimes.

However, Milenko Matic reproaches the government for agreeing to negotiations with Thaci.

"No talks should have been held with him until it was determined whether he was responsible for war crimes. I think this government also listens to Brussels too much, rather than to what its citizens want," Matic told SETimes.

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