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The global economic crisis has reduced foreign investor interest and hampered privatisation of remaining state-owned assets. Nevertheless, it is important that efforts continue to prepare viable companies for sale once international prospects improve. Financial stability in the banking sector has been maintained after a difficult period in late 2008, but lending conditions are tight. Close cooperation among regulators, domestic and foreign banks and international financial institutions (IFIs) is essential to ensure that banks continue to meet businesses’ and households’ needs. The economic crisis has led to a sharp drop in public revenues and has highlighted the need to lower spending on public administration and benefits. It is crucial that the government sticks to its commitments under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement to keep the budget deficit under control.
Liberalisation and privatisation
The situation with Serbia’s accession into the European Union is uncertain, however the EC has recommended to allow Serbian passport holders receive visa-free access to the Schengen zone from January 2010. Negotiations on membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are at an advanced stage.
The privatisation programme suffered set-backs over the past year, partly because of the global crisis. However, progress has been made in non-infrastructure areas.
Business environment and competition
Successive governments have made several efforts to improve the business environment, although significant problems remain. Enterprises identified tax rates, competition from the informal sector and lack of access to finance as the main obstacles to doing business.
A new competition law was adopted in July 2009 and will enter into force in November 2009. One of its main aims is to strengthen the authority of the Competition Commission by giving it enhanced powers to impose penalties on companies that fail to comply with the law. In addition, a new law on control of state aid, in line with EU law, has been adopted under which any state aid that distorts competition is ruled out except under certain restricted conditions.
In July 2009 the government signed a loan agreement with the World Bank to receive US$ 388 million for construction work on the Corridor 10 highway. Several large projects have also been signed to help restructure the state-owned railway company, Zeleznice Srbije.
The banking sector was initially affected by the global financial crisis, but Serbian authorities took firm steps to restore stability and confidence in the banking sector following the impacts of the global financial crisis. The government substantially raised the level of deposit insurance. The National Bank of Serbia (NBS) has also taken a number of measures to ease liquidity in the market. As a result, the deposit base gradually recovered and the banking system remains sound, well-capitalised and liquid. Foreign banks, which own approximately 70 per cent of total banking assets, remain committed to their operations in Serbia.
Last updated 21 April 2010