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EBRD official: Western Balkans might need 200 years to reach EU income levels

Zsuzsanna Hargitai, director for the Western Balkans at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has said that the countries of the region will need almost two hundred years to catch up with the average income level of the EU member states if their progress will continue in such a slow pace, the Serbian press has reported.

Speaking in an interview with Serbian weekly Business Magazine, the Western Balkans director said that complex business regulations and the state capture of public enterprises were the main reasons why the Western Balkans lag behind, adding that the course, however, could change.

Ms Hargitai emphasised that the less involvement of the state and more investment in infrastructure were the primary tasks of the EBRD when it comes to helping the region. This year, the EBRD will invest 500 million euros in Serbia, 70 per cent of which will be allocated to the private sector, with most of the financing for Serbia going to developing the green economy, mortgage and trade financing.

“Our aim is not to increase investments for the sake of the EBRD. We are trying to secure the financing which is not available in the otherwise well-developed banking system in Serbia to reach small and medium business,” she added.