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first_imgToday, they can look around and see a state possessing impressive intellectual and technical resources and a people who have shown their resilience against adversity. And they can look north to Hungary or the Czech Republic to see how former communist countries have embraced economic reform and launched themselves onto a path towards prosperity. The current Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, a former dissident who survived two assassination attempts and beatings at the hands of the Milosevic regime, paints a darker picture of the state. “The government…did not destroy the pyramid of Milosevic’s state terrorism in the army and the secret police,” he says. “Some influential business leaders, including opinion formers in the media, are former criminals who are now being promoted as heroes…it is impossible to put new wine in old bottles,” he warns.It is hard to believe Serbia and Montenegro’s perilous position if you look casually at the economic numbers. Inflation, which hit 150% each day in 1993, and 117 % annually in 2000, is now expected to be near 11.5 % per annum at the end of this year. Real economic growth is expected to reach six per cent. Foreign direct investment (FDI), potentially one of the most powerful engines of transition, bringing in not just money, but also managerial expertise and above all the new technology from which Serbia was cut-off by the sanctions imposed against the Milosevic regime, surged in 2003. A new breed of able entrepreneurs, not dependent on government finance, is emerging.But this year, in spite of debt-relieving agreements with the Paris and London Clubs of official and private creditors, doubts are creeping in. Foreign investors are getting anxious and the inflow of FDI has more than halved. A government report has identified scores of obstacles to foreign investment. Urban land, for example, is still owned by the state and difficult to buy. The Foreign Investors Council is publicly fretting about draft labour law reforms which would undermine flexibility. Business tycoons and powerful unions are helping to block restructuring at major network industries, such as telecoms, which is necessary for them to be privatised and modernised. “After the rapid privatisation of 2,600 enterprises during 2001-03, the process has stalled, for tactical political reasons,” says Mihailo Crnobrnja, special adviser to the Government of Serbia’s European Integration Office. But the International Monetary Fund says Serbia and Montenegro’s economic condition is “fragile” and its reform is “unfinished.” The Serbian authorities, it says, are blaming the “political constraints faced by a minority government and the population’s disillusionment with the slow and uneven improvement in living standards” for their retreat from reform.The international financial institutions, the IMF, the World Bank, and the advanced industrial countries which influence them are tiring of these excuses. Active discussions are underway, according to one insider, which would tighten lending conditions for Serbia’s overheating economy. “Don’t mess with us, get on with reform,” seems to be the emerging message. With unemployment at over 30%, right-wing extremists gaining strength in recent elections and new elections expected, critics of the IMF say tougher conditionality and an economic slowdown will only strengthen opponents of reform. Nationalist politicians are appealing to voters tired of seeing Serbia as the whipping boy of the international community and of seeing its citizens sent for trial to The Hague. They are tired too of reforms imposed by Brussels and all this with “the burning wound” of Kosovo, cradle of Serb civilization, still searing the nation’s soul. The international community is supporting Serbia and Montenegro. It could, by easing visa restrictions, particularly for young people, do more to highlight its positive role. It would help too if the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, while not backing away from its mission, handled Serbia with greater sensitivity. But this is a nation which is still being betrayed by its politicians, not by the international community, and the fact that barely half the population is turning out to vote tells us that the people know it. Stewart Fleming is a freelance journalist based in Brusselscenter_img But perhaps Serbia’s bickering politicians ought to look a lot further west at a less comforting prospect. On the eve of the Second World War Argentina was Latin America’s most prosperous economy, poised, many thought, to join the United States and western Europe as one of the world’s leading industrial economies.War, the dictatorship of Juan Peron, a military coup, state-sponsored terrorism, political instability and rancid, self-destructive nationalism intervened. Today, Argentina looks as far away from its once seemingly pre-destined transition to economic prosperity as it did more than fifty years ago.This comparison is offered not because of its intellectual precision. Like the United States, Argentina is an immigrant society with a short history. To walk into an Orthodox Christian Church on a Saturday morning in Belgrade and hear the sublime choral music which accompanies a wedding ceremony is to experience the beauty of Serbia’s rich and ancient culture – a culture which both nourishes and imprisons it.The point of the comparison with Argentina is far simpler. Economic and political transition does not just happen. It has to be achieved. It requires political vision, unity of purpose and leadership. The lack of all three in Serbia now,may not just slow down the transition process; it may block it.Listen to Jelica Minic, former assistant foreign minister for Serbia and Montenegro, now an adviser to the European Movement in Serbia, arguably the most influential non-governmental organization in the region. “There is a lack of vision, a lack of consensus on national priorities and a lack of unity, even amongst democratic forces, about how to tackle reform,” she says. “How can you have a coherent policy when you have to rely on a group of political leaders who are just fighting amongst themselves for power, not just political power, but economic power?” last_img read more


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first_imgThe Gazette has a new page on its website. ‘Women in the Law’ is home to history, profiles, opinion and news. The first history article, by Parliament’s senior archivist Mari Takayanago, follows the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act to royal assent on 23 December 1919. Others will follow, including accounts of the professional lives of the early ‘trailblazer’ women lawyers.Comment and opinion on women in the law includes reflections on the role of feminism in taking instructions, the role of men in achieving equality and watershed legal moments that improved LGBT+ equality. Also covered in news and analysis is last week’s Law Society research report Women in Leadership in Law. News and comment on gender pay gap data will appear there as firms publish figures.Women in the Law includes specially commissioned content as well as news and features appearing elsewhere in the Gazette. To contribute articles or ideas for the page, email the commissioning editor Eduardo Reyes: [email protected]last_img read more