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Serbia: Dinkic relies on expertise for January elections

Love him or loathe him – and in Serbia plenty of people do just that – there’s no ignoring Mladjan Dinkic. The first sight that greets – his opponents argue assails – arrivals at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport is a giant poster of the man himself, promoting the G17 Plus party he hopes he will lead to power in parliamentary elections in late January.

The billboard’s strapline is Strucnost ispred politike (Experts not politicians), suggesting that Dinkic and his G17 Plus cohorts who resigned from the ruling coalition in mid-November in protest at the lack of progress over EU accession negotiations clearly regard themselves as being a cut above the other Serbian political parties.

Whether an electorate still smarting from the country’s recent divorce from Montenegro and concerned about the possible loss of Kosovo will warm to such a technocratic approach remains open to question, despite Dinkic’s impressive performance as first central bank governor from 2000 to July 2003 and then finance minister from March 2004.

“There’s no doubt that Dinkic has done a good job,” says Branislav Radovanic, an executive director at HVB Bank, one of a large number of foreign banks that have set up shop in Belgrade to take advantage of the improving economic climate that has resulted from Dinkic’s unashamedly free market policies.

Under Dinkic’s stewardship GDP growth has averaged over 6% and inflation has been slashed to 5.6% – of great psychological importance in a country that experienced rampant hyperinflation in the mid-1990s. His performance has enabled the country to attract a record $4 billion of foreign direct investment this year and won him plaudits from important sponsors of the Serbian economy such as the World Bank, the IMF and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

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