Serb opposition demands foreign aid

BELGRADE, Jun 13, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serb opposition leaders urged the West on Monday not to hesitate with funding pledges if Serbia opts to take a democratic path.

They were speaking after meeting Bodo Hombach, special coordinator for the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, last week in Thessaloniki, Greece, where they presented a funding proposal for macroeconomic reforms and infrastructure projects in a democratic Serbia.

Twenty opposition leaders have promised to work closely with the West, hopeful that November local polls will seriously weaken Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and force him to call early general elections.

"We guarantee that the new government will be democratic and pro-European," the leaders said in a paper handed to the West. Their blueprint outlined $6.8 billion in road, rail and power infrastructure projects.

"We must know exactly how the Stability Pact plans to support the new democratic government of Serbia in its first year of operation," leader of the Democratic Party Zoran Djindjic told a news conference.

In turn, the opposition would create institutions to fight corruption.

"In an election year we must have a very concrete plan. We must know what to tell people to expect if they take a risk and agree to embrace democratic changes," he said.

Miroljub Labus, chief coordinator of the G-17 group of independent economists, added: "This proposal is a moment of truth for the international community, to see if they really want to support reconstruction and political and economic reforms in this country and the democratic opposition, or if it's just rhetoric."

Labus said Milosevic's government had so far managed to repair 4.5 percent of some $4.0 billion worth of infrastructure destroyed in NATO's 11-week bombing of Yugoslavia last year.

"We support reconstruction but we do not have time to wait 20 years to repair everything," Labus said.


Mladjan Dinkic, one of the architects of the proposal, agreed an accurate financing plan was vital if the West was serious about installing lasting democracy in the region.

"We have already projected the 2001 budget for Serbia, envisaging a $950 million deficit. We have already asked for $500 million in international assistance," he said.

Some $350 million would come from privatization and $100 million would be raised at European capital markets, he said.

A new democratic government would also need $635 million for quick start projects from the Stability Pact, he added.

The funds, some $1.5 billion in total, would help a new government implement swift fiscal reforms.

In turn, a new democratic government would do everything to attract foreign investment, he said.

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