Deputy PM says "key economic goal" reduction of unemployment

"We have the strength to change Serbia," asserted Aleksandar Vučić as he addressed the"Serbia Turns to Economy - Together Out of the Crisis" conference.

Source: Tanjug
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Speaking at the event on Monday in Belgrade, the first deputy prime minister said the government's key economic goal was to reduce unemployment to below 20 percent in a year or two.

"In the past, Serbia deteriorated without the government being upfront to the people about it, which is why the politicians in power today have a duty to do what is good for the country, even if it means some unpopular measures," said he.

Vučić explained that the economic situation in the coming period will be improved by the rule of law, building of institutions, shortening of bureaucratic procedures, the establishment of fast response offices, and a reform of the public sector and the pension system.

Bureaucratic procedures need to be reduced to a minimum, which will also limit the room for corruption, said Vučić, stressing it is important to improve the investment environment and fight for every investor.

"We will work with commitment and responsibility, trying to meet the demands of businessmen, but not demands like: give me a loan from a state bank which I will not pay back, and I will give you ten percent," Vučić warned. He added the business sector can actually do a lot for the state, rather than always asking something from it.

According to Vučić, the people making the most noise are the ones doing nothing, who sit in coffee shops criticizing the government.

The deputy PM thanked Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Vincent Degert on the support in the EU integration process.

"There is solidarity in the EU but not charity, so we cannot expect that we will be getting assistance which we will spend any way we want and live well without doing anything," said Vučić.

He noted, however, that unlike Serbia which has done everything it promised in the previous period, the EU has not made good on all its promises.

Vučić commented on an arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying it is important also as a signal to investors.

"During the talks on a government reshuffle, we will see what we can achieve. I wish the IMF had been a little less strict, because all of a sudden it is time to pay up on all our debts: Kosovo, corruption and public debt, and somebody needs to face this," Vučić explained.

Structural reforms

Serbia should implement and complete the structural reforms as soon as possible, because there is no time to lose, head of the World Bank Office in Serbia Loup Brefort said on Monday and commended the government on its efforts to solve the economic problems.

Brefort addressed the confrence and stressed that the World Bank was encouraged by everything the Serbian government had done to resolve the big problems it inherited.

They include the problems concerning the companies that record losses, which stifle the economy, are a large expense and do not help improve the business environment, he noted.

There are many technical things that need doing, and it is very important that the government has adopted an action plan to restructure former government companies, he stated.

According to Brefort, the World Bank will provide financial and technical assistance to Serbia, and that will be considered in the next few weeks.

It is a lot harder to conduct reforms now, when the economy is in a difficult state, than 6-7 years ago, when the situation was better, he pointed out.

Commenting on the business environment, he said the Gordian knot had to be cut, because of Serbia's great number of regulations and administrative procedures that could be interpreted in two ways.

If Serbia wants to be competitive, it has to reduce bureaucracy, he underscored.

The bureaucracy is the key, and it smothers and creates a burden, Brefort stated, adding it was not enough to simply battle corruption, but also to clear some regulations that create room for corruption.

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