Serbia’s debt to China currently stands at 1.2 billion euros according to official data but experts have warned that the figure could go up with more projects being planned.
According to the Public Debt Authority, Serbia owes about 1.2 billion euros to China, with another two billion euros in loans from Chinese banks.
The Serbian authorities have taken at least 11 loans from China’s Exim Bank to finance the construction of roads, railways and power industry projects. Those loans will be repaid over a period of at least 20 years.
The biggest loan (830.5 million euros) was granted for the reconstruction of the railroad between Novi Sad and the border with Hungary. Another loan granted to Serbia amounted to 350 million dollars and was taken to finance the reconstruction of the Belgrade-Stara Pazova railway.
Then there is a 374-million-euro loan for the Preljina-Pozega highway which is being built by the China Communications Construction Company and 208 million euros for the Surcin-Obrenoavac road. Most of those loans were given on the condition that Chinese companies are engaged in the projects.
Journalist Mijat Lakicevic warned that the figures are not the total because the relevant data is not all in one place. He said the debt reaches as high as eight billion euros and could go as high as 15 billion if we count all planned projects. That would account for a third of Serbia’s total foreign debt.
Lakicevic also said that deals made without a tender are more expensive and added that some of the money has to be funnelled back to the Serbian authorities.
Journalist Aleksandar Milosevic warned that the deals lack transparency because they are all made bilaterally with no competition in sight. “The question is how deals (with China) are made and if they are beneficial for Serbia,” he added.
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