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Serbia Discusses Reforms - 2001-09-15


Top leaders of Serbia say they believe progress has been made in the first 11 months of their government. But they also say more needs to be done.

Despite recent tensions in the ruling coalition, the often feuding Yugoslav president and Serbian prime minister sat together as experts assessed the accomplishments and failures of the past year.

Leading economic reformer Mirojlub Labus conceded that the first 11 months of the post-Milosevic era had yielded only partial reforms. Government-owned enterprises have not been privatized. There has been almost no foreign direct investment.

But Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said he is pleased with the accomplishments of rebuilt relations with international institutions, the promise of foreign assistance, and monetary stability. He said Serbia and Montenegro could be ready to join the European Union by 2004 and become a full member by 2010.

However, another reformer, Serbian Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic, said he is not convinced that the economy has yet reached bottom. Mr. Djelic said Serbia's economy cannot grow if the world economy slides into recession. "I think the Serbian economy is so down it won't go much further down," he said. "However, it is sure that the elements of recession around the world, and particularly in the United States and Western Europe, can only be reinforced by the tragic events in New York and Washington."

Before returning to Serbia last year, Mr. Djelic was an economist in California's high-tech Silicon Valley. He worries that terrorist attacks in the United States will slow U.S. consumer spending and turn a sluggish U.S. economy into recession.

Speakers at the Belgrade conference warned that the reform momentum must be reactivated or the public will turn against the democratic reformers now in power. The Serbian gross domestic product fell by 60 percent during the last ten years Slobodan Milosevic's government.