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UPDATE 2-Serbia picks commerce chief to run economy ministry
August 19, 2014 / 2:30 PM / in 3 years

UPDATE 2-Serbia picks commerce chief to run economy ministry

* Business leader to steer restructuring, privatisation

* Government under pressure to rein in borrowing

* Seeking investors for drugmaker, steel plant, copper mine (Updates with Vucic confirmation)

By Ivana Sekularac

BELGRADE, Aug 19 (Reuters) - The head of Serbia’s Chamber of Commerce was nominated on Tuesday to take on the restructuring and selling of hundreds of state enterprises as economy minister in a government under pressure to rein in borrowing.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Zeljko Sertic, a member of his own Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), would take on the post pending parliamentary endorsement.

Vucic heads a coalition with a strong majority in parliament after the SNS performed well in the last election in March.

“We need someone who will confront big problems such as companies in restructuring and others; Sertic faces a tough job,” Vucic told reporters in the town of Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade, the Tanjug state news agency reported.

If endorsed by parliament, the 47-year-old would succeed Dusan Vujovic, who swapped the economy portfolio for the finance ministry this month.

Vujovic replaced Lazar Krstic, who resigned as finance minister in July citing a lack of support from Vucic for the radical spending cuts he had advocated to cut the budget deficit.

Sertic is a graduate of the Faculty for Business and Industrial Management at the private Union University in the northern city of Novi Sad. He has run a series of private businesses and was appointed head of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce in March 2013.

As economy minister, Sertic will steer the privatisation of some 500 mainly loss-making state enterprises, due for completion by Dec. 31, 2015. The process is a central plank of a government drive to rein in borrowing, with the budget deficit set to reach 8.3 percent of national output by the end of the year and public debt heading for 73 percent.

Serbia’s privatisation agency last week invited letters of interest from potential investors in 502 firms, including drugmaker Galenika and Bor copper mine, one of Europe’s largest.

Serbia’s economy is forecast to contract by 0.5 percent this year due to devastating floods in May that hurt the energy sector in particular. Unemployment in the second quarter stood at 20 percent. (Editing by Matt Robinson and Louise Ireland)

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