ISSN 2330-717X

Serbian Parties Start Dividing Company Spoils

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By Bojana Barlovac

Following the general election and as talks on forming a new coalition government continue, the key political parties are discussing dividing up plum posts in public enterprises.

Unofficial talks on the distribution of state-owned companies have started in Serbia, following the conclusion of a coalition deal between the Democrats and the Socialists on forming a new government.

As in the past, the most attractive prizes are those state-owned companies that either turn a profit or obtain large funds from the state budget.

These include: Telekom Srbija, the power utility EPS, the gas company Srbijagas and the construction company, Putevi Srbije.

For instance, the director of Telekom Srbija has a salary of about 3,500 euro a month, which is ten times the average monthly salary in Serbia.

The fresh discussions on dividing up the companies come even though the parties promised in the election campaign to stop treating state-owned firms as part of the political spoils.

Boris Begovic, of the Center for Liberal-Democratic Studies, believes that Serbia must stop appointing party officials to head public enterprises for a start.

“Serbia has 1,340 state owned companies with about 100,000 employees which in 2010 had loss of a billion euro or 3.5 per cent of the GDP, while a total subsidies and transfers to these enterprises in 2011 amounted to about 2.3 per cent of GDP,” Begovic noted.

The government needs to improve the management of public enterprises and productivity and reduce bureaucracy, corruption and subsidies to make them more efficient and competitive, he added.

Meanwhile, the Democrats and Socialists are still holding unofficial talks on forming a coalition government with a third party, the Liberals.

Their plan is for a government consisting of 15 ministries, of which the Democrats would have seven, the Socialists five and the Liberals three.

On Wednesday Tomislav Nikolic, Serbia’s newly elected President, is supposed to meet a delegation composed by the Democrats and discuss forming a government.

The deadline for the formation of a new government is September 5.

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