A recent survey conducted by CeSid showed that 77% of the respondents believe that China has a positive influence on Serbia and 1/3 of them think that the country is the biggest donor in Serbia. Is this true? Experts warn that Chinese loans are officially presented as investments, but Serbia should be more careful about increasing its debt to that country, even though Serbian President, Aleksandar Vučić, keeps reassuring the public that Serbia will repay these loans.
The CeSid survey revealed that almost 80 out of 100 respondents believe China has a positive influence on Serbia and only 11% of them see the influence as negative.
By comparison, only 26% recognise the positive influence of the EU on Serbia. According to the respondents, out of all countries, China has given the most grants to Serbia in the last 20 years, while the EU is second.
“We have a regime that has been trying for years to present the situation differently from how it really is, with all the Chinese loans that come into Serbia presented as investments. If you build a factory or export goods, that constitutes an investment, not giving loans to build the required infrastructure, which we then have to repay with interest,” says Mihailo Gajić.
The loans from the Chinese have exceeded 1.3 billion dollars, which is not much, experts explain and is currently about 4% of Serbia’s total public debt.
“We call for more monitoring of loans from China, because they are mainly loans, not grants, unlike the money we get from the EU; the total amount of funds available in the form of loans is actually $3.7 billion, and there is still room for Serbia to increase its debt to China,” said Strahinja Subotic of the Centre for European Policy.
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