Serbia to discuss new deal with IMF, prime minister says

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Serbia hopes to discuss a new loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund in the spring, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday.

Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Serbia’s 1.2 billion-euro loan agreement with the IMF is due to end in February 2018.

“We were very satisfied with the results we achieved through that IMF standby deal,” Vucic told Reuters Global Markets Forum.

He said he hoped a new arrangement would be discussed during the next review of the current agreement, tentatively expected in the spring.

Before the review, the lender will make a separate staff visit to Belgrade in March.

“I think that we might discuss that issue and personally I would have nothing against that idea,” he said.

Last November, the IMF raised its forecast for Serbia’s 2016 economic growth to 2.7 percent from 2.5 percent and said it growth of 3 percent in 2017. It also agreed to a public-sector wage and pension increase in 2017.

But it said authorities needed to provide a clear restructuring plan for loss-making state companies, including copper mine RTB Bor, petrochemical plants and a coal mine, all of which received heavy subsidies in the past and accumulated debts, mainly to energy suppliers.

Vucic told the forum that the RTB Bor copper mine remains one of the biggest problems for the Serbian government.

“And if we’ll be able to make an arrangement with someone to privatize it, to buy it, that would be a great news for Serbia, and it’s likely that in today’s situation, it might be that the Chinese are the only ones to take care of that copper mine,” he said.

To read more of our interview with Vucic:.

Reporting by Kirsten Donovan and Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Larry King