The reform of state-owned enterprises and public utilities tops the list of priorities set out in the new five-year strategy for Serbia which the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has adopted, the lender said on Monday.
“Having stabilised the macro economic environment, we project the Serbian economy will grow by 2.9%. With this positive base, it is the right moment to focus even more strongly on reforms,” Dan Berg, EBRD Director for Serbia, said as quoted in a statement of the bank.
“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,” he added.
Another key objectives of the 2018-23 strategy is to enhance integration by improving the transport network, supporting regional economic connectivity and advancing energy interconnections, the EBRD said in a statement.
The international lender will also seek to support the green economy through investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as promoting sustainable practices across industries.
In 2017 the bank provided over 380 million euro ($468 million) in more than 20 projects across various sectors of the Serbian economy. The 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.
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 euro across some 200 projects in the country.