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Serbia's Economic Future Not Bright, Analysts Say - 2003-06-05

Observers of political and economic developments in Serbia Wednesday presented a generally gloomy assessment of the country's future at a forum sponsored by Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center.

He says the emergency measures invoked by the government, after the assassination were excessive, greatly eroding civil liberties and press freedom. The welcomed crackdown against organized crime, he says, was selective, leaving some criminal elements untouched. These repressive and self-serving measures, says Mr. Kesic, have squandered the government's good will with the public.

"The battle for power will continue and will continue to alienate the country's citizens," says Mr. Kesic. "As a result real legitimacy and support for reform efforts will quickly be lost and the country will find itself in a state of limbo, not really at war with itself but nowhere near the peace and stability it needs."

Mr. Kesic foresees elections in Serbia, probably this year, but he doubts they will bring stability. He sees the ruling Democratic Party coalition as arrogant and growing increasingly unpopular. "The country's politicians, particularly in the ruling DOS coalition, have seized this moment to consolidate their own hold on power and to pursue their own ambitions," he says.

Economically, says International Monetary Fund consultant Srba Antic, the government is doing well. He says the assassination has slowed the flow of foreign direct investment but that budgetary restraint is continuing and high inflation has been avoided.

He says, and Mr. Kesic agrees, domestic issues will preoccupy Serbs and there is little interest in what is happening in Montenegro, now linked to Serbia in a loose federation. Serbs, they say, find the status quo in Kosovo acceptable but will oppose any steps towards independence by the territory's 90% Albanian majority.