Serbs may get gold coins instead of old savings

BELGRADE, Jun 27, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbs who lost all their savings when the government of Socialist Yugoslavia froze them in the early 1990s may be paid back in gold coins, the central bank governor said on Monday.

"There are some gold coins, currently held at the central bank's treasury and these can be offered to repay some old savings," governor Dusan Vlatkovic said.

"The face value of each gold coin slightly exceeds 150 German marks. But the government has yet to decide whether these coins will be offered as a repayment," he told reporters. According to local media reports, the National Bank of Yugoslavia has 200,000 gold coins that may help the state settle a 30 million German mark ($14.33 million) debt to holders of the frozen savings.

The government, which faces local and federal elections in November, has promised to pay back a total of 183 million German marks this year.

The government started repaying deposits on June 1 in dinars, having launched a special dinar incentive on top of the Yugoslav currency's official exchange rate, bringing it in line with the black market value,

Under the scheme, the value of the German mark is 20 instead of 6.0 dinars, which remains the official rate but is now almost never used.

According to the Yugoslav Banking Association, banks have so far repaid 460 million dinars or 23 million German marks. Total savings frozen by state-run banks since the early 1990s are estimated to be worth some $4.0 billion, affecting one and a half million of Yugoslavia's ten million population.

The state promised to repay the whole debt over 10 years.

The four Yugoslav republics which broke away from present-day Yugoslavia have their own schemes to repay the savings. Some have finished and Montenegro, Serbia's smaller, Western leaning partner, is ahead of Serbia on its repayments.

Cash-poor Yugoslavia has obliged exporters to sell 10 percent of their hard currency receipts to the central bank in order to get cash to start repaying the debt in hard currency.

"We expect between 15 and 20 million German marks to be collected from exporters each month. As soon as the funds start arriving, the banks will be paying back," Vlatkovic said.

Original article