The same people who robbed the state were involved in the making of the law. Participants of the panel discussion “The truth about the 24 cases”, organized by the Centre for investigative journalism (CINS) concluded that the Law on Privatisation allowed corruption during the transition period in Serbia, which lead to systemic deterioration of economy and society.
The process of privatisation was completely devoid of meaning and manipulated in Serbia – stated Ivana Jeremić from CINS.
Only three ministers have been prosecuted – Predrag Bubalo, Oliver Dulić and Saša Dragin. Businessmen Miroslav Mišković and Milan Beko are among the names most frequently mentioned during the investigation of problematic privatisations. Out of twelve cases that were presented to the court, only two resulted in convictions.
Ivan Zlatić, current president of Socialdemocratic Union party and former secretary of the Anti-Corruption Council stated that it’s wrong to reduce the problems with the privatisation in Serbia to corruption. According to his opinion, privatisation brought systemic economic and social destruction. The court penalties represent a minor piece of the problem. What needs to be confronted is the overall ruining of the economy.
Our biggest problem is that we live in peripheral capitalism which prevents progress – accentuated Zlatić.
Jelisaveta Vasilić, member of the Anti-Corruption Council, stated that the Law on Privatisation allowed huge corruption because it had “a sea of corruptive articles which entitled a small group of people to manage privatisation without any control of their actions”.
The Privatisation Agency of the Republic of Serbia got under most severe scrutiny, as one of the main actors which operationalized privatisation.
Too many politicians, and too little workers and trade unions were involved. For example, Siniša Mali [current Minister of Finance, former Major of Belgrade] used to be the director of the Centre for privatisation through bidding and auction . The Council was limited in its authority, and thus unable to trace the money flows, which is crucial to corruption research – stated Vasilić.
After it assumed power in 2012, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) had promised to fight corruption and to punish those who undeservedly became rich.
However, the “actual fight against corruption had lasted only few months – until March 2013, after that it became a fraud”, stated Siniša Janković, former member of the working group of the Ministry of Internal Affairs which was inspecting the “24 cases”.
Austerity measures were used as the primary excuse for cuts in the working groups’ funding. Though Aleksandar Vučić stated his support at first, only marginal actors got arrested, to keep the people under the impression that the arrests are actually taking place – stated Janković.
In the oppinion of Ivan Zlatić, the bigger arrests were a consequence of the “new power’s revanchist attitude towards the old power, and not the much needed changes to the system which allowed corruption in the first place. The whole privatisation problematics has been reduced to a banal question of 24 cases, selected according to their usefulness in a political power struggle”. He added that the “system is now worse than in 2012, we are poorer than we used to be, plundering and deindustrialisation have taken place, there is neither democracy nor a rule of law, which all coincides with an economy dominated by poorly paid and insecure jobs.”
Zlatko Deurić, former director of Jugoremedia pharmaceutical company and the president of the strikers’ board in that company, also took part in the discussion. He said that the case of Jugoremedija is unique, because of the fact that the workers were the majority owners of the factory.
The workers were ready to make their own board of directors, and had invested 12 million euros, started production employing 460 people, but the government prevented workers’ ownership over industries, making the factory go under – stated Deurić.
According to his statement, Jugoremedija has been pushed into bad economic conditions in order to be destroyed like the other factories.
Members of the audience criticised the research done by CINS on the account that it focused on the 24 cases only, and neglected to address the overall privatisation process, which has lead to huge unemployment and poverty.
The research of the 24 problematic privatisations, done by CINS, was presented before the discussion. Most of the cases occurred during the mandate of Vojislav Koštunica’s government. Eleven problematic privatisations took place between 2004 and 2008, and nine of them took place during the mandate of the previous government, lead by Zoran Đinđić, and later by Zoran Živković.
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was originally published in Serbian on Oct 29, 2018.