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After the storm

After a nightmare decade of war, sanctions, mismanagement and institutionalized criminality, Serbs are hoping for a speedy deliverance from a mounting economic crisis. Yet despite promises of aid to the post-Milosevic Serbian and federal Yugoslav governments, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. Erik D’Amato reports from the frontlines of the most critical European economic transition since 1991

Many Serbs blame the countries'
economic woes on Milosevic....for now

A man stands in a supermarket aisle, dazed at the rows of bare shelves around him. Outside his view dangles a 500 million dinar note, the symbol of his country's devastating hyperinflation, alongside a mugshot of Slobodan Milosevic, the imprisoned ex-leader of Yugoslavia and its heartland republic of Serbia. The billboard image, while technically inaccurate - there are plenty of goods in the stores, just no money to buy them - is driven home by a simple slogan: "Who is to blame?"

The ad, one in a series sponsored by reform group Otpor, is not just a challenge to Milosevic, currently in custody in a Belgrade jail. It is also a warning of sorts to the new democratic governments of Serbia and the Yugoslav Federation, charged with cleaning up the economic wreckage left by decades of institutional dysfunction, mismanagement, corruption and enforced isolation.

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