The sale of the Agricultural Combine Belgrade (PKB), as well as the majority of privatizations carried out in the Serbian agriculture sector, have been carried out to suit the needs of well-known, most likely foreign bidders – the Vojvodina Research and Analysis Centre (VOICE) claims.
The VOICE says that the terms and conditions of the tender for the privatization of PKB are such that even the Serbian tycoons like Petar Matijevic and Miodrag Kostic, who have so far, expressed the biggest interest in the company, cannot fulfill them.
“The state has prescribed the terms that state that the new owner of PKB must have had at least 400 million euro of turnover last year”, the VOICE (www.voice.org.rs ) wrote.
They also state that the sale of the PKB will mark the end of privatization of agricultural combines in Serbia, and when PKB is sold for EUR 104.5 million, that will mean the end of the transitional drama in which the main actors – the workers – are defeated, while businessmen are getting 120,000 hectares of the best agricultural land and enormous wealth for a laughable amount of money, all in line with the laws of this country.
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The Centre goes on to say that, after the “forced” privatization, agricultural production fell by at least a third, and at least 100,000 people lost their jobs, while entire villages and livestock disappeared.
“If Serbia nurtures the rule of the law, the privatization in the agricultural sector, as has been done over the past decade and a half, would not have been possible. Since the Constitution and the relevant laws were not respected or adhered to in this case, and the courts made their rulings under political and tycoon pressure, this kind of ownership transformation is responsible for the collapse of PKB and the shady deals in leasing state-owned land, with the growing dissatisfaction of farmers and the great injustices towards both the farmers and villages,” the VOICE writes.
The Centre underlines that, before the privatization in Serbia, there were 108 agricultural companies and 91 agricultural combines, with half of them located in Vojvodina.
“In this process of ownership transformation, every third sale was canceled, many enterprises were completely destroyed, some of the most successful ones ended up in the hands of the wanted criminals like Darko Saric, or those of a smaller caliber like Mile Jerkovic. Some are owned by the Arabs, and some by Matijevic, Kostic, Miskovic…”, says the VOICE.
Agrarian analyst, Djordje Bugarin claims that PKB will be sold “at a shamefully low price”, which does not cover even the value of the company’s land.
According to him, the PKB has much more than 17,000 hectares of land, as it is advertised for sale, and the question is whether this is owned by the state or by the cooperative.
He added that the PKB should not have been sold but transformed into a profit-making company.
“It is possible that the tender is being set up to cater to Arab investors and that the company will practically end up in their hands. The initial price of EUR 104.5 million certainly does not cover the value of agricultural land, with many of these land plots being adjacent to construction land. The new owner of PKB will profit greatly from this,” Bugarin said.
Agricultural analyst Vojislav Stankovic estimates for the VOICE that the PKB will be sold “for a laughable amount of money to someone who has never been engaged in agriculture and who will destroy it, and the land will be converted into a building site”.
According to him, the company’s perspective was very good, because it was in the close proximity to the capital city, and it had a tradition and it covered a large market comprising of two million people.
Stankovic also said that it was necessary to preserve PKB, and especially the agricultural complexes in Vojvodina, adding that the best model to use was to turn them into cooperative property.
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