Reform of state-run companies tops list of priorities
The 2018-23 strategy sets out the following priorities:
- foster competitiveness and governance by boosting private companies and reforming state-owned enterprises and public utilities
- enhance integration by improving the transport network, supporting regional economic connectivity and advancing energy interconnections
- support the green economy through investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as promoting sustainable practices across industries.
The new strategy for Serbia follows a year of strong EBRD investment in the country. In 2017 the Bank provided over €380 million in more than 20 projects across various sectors of the Serbian economy. Investments included loans for the construction of two large wind farms, the upgrade of a railway maintenance depot, the modernisation of air traffic control, the expansion of a retail centre in Belgrade and new funds to a local lender to boost SME and mortgage lending.
The EBRD’s strong investment volume reflects Serbia’s return to economic growth. The country has largely overcome the economic disruption in the wake of the severe floods in 2014 but the need to increase foreign and domestic investment calls for more efforts to improve the business environment.
Dan Berg, EBRD Director for Serbia, said: “Having stabilised the macro economic environment, we project the Serbian economy will grow by 2.9 per cent in 2018. With this positive base, it is the right moment to focus even more strongly on reforms. Our strategy will support the government’s priorities with investment and policy engagement. The EBRD will keep its focus on the restructuring of state-owned enterprises and encouraging greater participation of private sector companies in sectors largely dominated by the state. We will also continue working with the authorities to promote improvements in the business environment and improving access to finance to support entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises.”
In late 2014 the EBRD and Serbia launched an initiative to improve the investment climate, encourage the development of the private sector and promote good governance in Serbia. Under the initiative, the Bank is supporting regional business registry, building capacity of the competition authority, promoting alternative dispute resolution and better public procurement practices as well as the resolution of non-performing loans.
The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Serbia. To date, it has invested €4.7 billion across some 200 projects in the country.