Bosnian Serb pensioners protest against late payment

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Aug 22, 2000 -- (AFP) Some 400 Bosnian Serb pensioners protested Monday against late pension payments, gathering in front of the government building where last preparations for the budget revision were being made.

The pensioners' anger towards the Republika Srpska (RS, Bosnian Serb entity) government rose when they discovered earlier this month that their check for the second half of March was also meant to cover payments up to the first half of June.

Pensioners said they were still owed 10 weeks back payments.

The RS government, which will discuss the budget changes at Wednesday's parliament session, has argued that earlier increases in pensions had compensated for April and May pay-outs.

By the end of 2000 the RS, if present trends continue, will have a budget deficit of DEM 200 million (EUR 102 million, USD 92.7 million), representatives of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank said recently in Banja Luka.

The forecast prompted Wednesday's parliamentary debate on the budget revision although a number of Member of Parliament have requested the addition of a no-confidence vote against the government.

RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik told a press conference Sunday that pensions and wages had been increased in the past without a proper financial basis, which is why the government was forced to undertake such measures.

He announced further cuts in pensions and wages, without giving details.

The World Bank has threatened to suspend stand-by arrangements in future unless the budget deficit is solved by the end of August.

The average pension for some 172,000 RS pensioners is DEM 140, while monthly expenses for the basic needs of a four-member family stand at DEM 407.

Original article