World Bank gives Serbia list of laws to be passed if aid is to flow

BELGRADE (Reuters) – The World Bank yesterday issued a list of 40 laws it said Serbia must adopt before the end of the year if it wanted international donor aid to keep reform moving. The World Bank gave Serbia’s newly elected Parliament one month to pass 10 of the laws and amendments, including those on the budget, business registration, bankruptcy, value-added tax and energy. Serbia has 100 days to adopt some of the other laws and until the end of the year for the rest, the Bank said, adding that donors believed the legislation would speed up reforms and spur economic growth. Conservative Prime Minister-designate Vojislav Kostunica is due next week to present a minority Cabinet which must rely on support from the discredited Socialist Party of ex-leader Slobodan Milosevic, who is on trial for war crimes. The prospect of a Socialist-backed government is causing concern among investors and Western supporters of Serbia’s pro-reform parties that reforms started in 2001 could slow down. «The donors expect these laws to be adopted within the first month of normal parliamentary procedure of the new Serbian Parliament since they are ready for implementation,» the World Bank said of the first batch of legislation. The Parliament was expected to quickly amend the 2004 budget to make it consistent with a «policy understanding» with the International Monetary Fund. «The current draft of the budget is no longer consistent with such understanding,» the Bank said. Laws on bankruptcy and insurance were required for the release of the World Bank’s $40 million tranche of a financial sector structural adjustment credit. In 100 days donors wanted to see the adoption of laws on food hygiene, critical for exports to the European Union, and changes to the public procurement law to make it compatible with EU legislation. The wish list for the end of 2004 includes laws on accounting, companies, property tax, public debt, foreign trade, private pension funds, investment funds, roads, mortgages and competition that would bring more order in the local market. Donors also said the laws had to be in harmony with those in Montenegro. Serbia and Montenegro have separate currencies, tax and customs systems.