How Šapić ‘sank’ the Belgrade city budget

At the end of 2023, the Belgrade city budget recorded a deficit of almost 72 million euros.

Given that revenues amounted to 146.7 billion dinars and expenditures to 155.1 billion dinars, the Belgrade government, helmed by the outgoing mayor Aleksandar Šapić, spent 5.7 percent more money than it had available.

Šapić, who was once the best water polo player in the world, succeeded in what many before him failed to do. He emptied out the city coffers. The only thing that works in his favour is that the official data on the catastrophic state of the city budget will not be made public until the outcome of the Belgrade election is known, and by then it will be too late.

The Šapić-led government is the first Belgrade government that, after a decade and a half, managed to spend more money than the city’s revenue during one calendar year. Before his term in the office, i.e. at the last in the 15 years before he became mayor, that had never happened to any mayor. Not even at the height of the global financial crisis, in 2008 and 2009, when Belgrade was governed by, as the current government likes to say, “yellow thieves” and before Šapić himself, as the chairman of the Belgrade branch of the Democratic Party, became an assistant to the then mayor Dragan Đilas in 2010.

By analyzing all the final accounts of the Belgrade budget from 2008 onwards, Radar established that every year the revenues were higher than the expenditures, with the surplus varying from a few hundred million to 9.5 billion dinars. Every year except 2023.

The deficit in the city budget would have been even greater if it had not been for the generous help of his friends from the Government of Serbia, who willingly provided money in the form of transfers from budget reserves, whenever there was a shortage. Last year, hardly a month went by without a financial infusion from the Serbian budget, always with the same explanation, that the money was being paid to Belgrade so that it could pay certain liabilities “that could not have been foreseen during the budget adoption process”, because if the deficit was not covered, the ongoing budget liquidity could be jeopardized.

In total, in 2023, more than 9.2 million euros were transferred from the Serbian budget into the Belgrade budget. Specifically, according to publicly available data, 88.5 million dinars were transferred from the current reserve of the state budget to Belgrade in February, 148 million in two tranches in April, 110 plus 90 million in June, 130 million in July, 75 million in August, 75 million in September 401.2 million, in November 42 million…

If we add to that the 2.3 billion dinars transferred from the state to the Belgrade budget in 2022, we can conclude that Šapić’s term in the office cost taxpayers an additional 29 million euros. If the Ministry of Finance had not transferred that money to Belgrade’s budget, its deficit would have been that much larger.

Meanwhile, Radar found out from well-informed sources that last year, compared to 2022, the revenue from public transport activities was reduced by 12 million euros, while new ticketing applications cost more than 28 million euros. Also, subsidies for the city transport company and other companies engaged in public transport amounted to 28.3 million euros.

However, more than five million euros have been reserved in the budget for the first half of this year for the “development of smart traffic” and almost six million euros for “communication with citizens”. The former mayor clearly cares about improving communication ahead of the local elections, in the hope that this will secure him a new term in office, which he failed to win on December 17, 2023. Who knows?! maybe the government borrowed three billion dinars from Poštanska Štedionica at the end of April in order to be able to finance the election campaign.

The fact that no one controls them also works to the advantage of the current Belgrade authorities. On October 30, the Government of Serbia dissolved the Belgrade Assembly, so that city elections could be held together with parliamentary elections on December 17. At the same time, the Serbian government declared Šapić the outgoing mayor and together with Nikola Nikodijević and Aleksandar Mirković (both from the Serbian Progressive Party – SNS) will manage the capital until the election for the new city council. Along with them, there are also two representatives of the opposition parties, Vladimir Obradović and Dobrica Veselinović, who are supposed to manage the city together with the aforementioned three politicians, but it seems that they are not consulted about anything.

The only thing left for Obradović was to warn in a written statement that Belgrade was practically bankrupt and that that was the result of incompetent management of money. “Huge corruption and senseless spending of money led to the fact that the city budget no longer has money even to cover its basic needs,” he pointed out and announced that on April 30, the outgoing mayor and the government will borrow three billion dinars to maintain current liquidity. “Šapić spent 200 million dinars on his election campaign, while the SNS uses the city’s budget as a source of money for themselves,” said Obradović.

(Radar, 22.05.2024)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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