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Voice of America, 01-09-09

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>

SLUG: 5-50099 Macedonia Aid DATE: NOTE NUMBER:





    INTRO: The Macedonian government is hoping that the recently signed peace agreement with ethnic Albanians will lead to a big increase in foreign assistance that will ease the country's growing budget deficit. V-O-A's Barry Wood reports western aid is being conditioned on implementation of the peace agreement.

    TEXT: The European Union and World Bank plan to convene a donors' conference for Macedonia on October 15th. That meeting, due to take place in Brussels, will occur only if the Macedonian parliament has acted to implement the agreement that gives substantial new powers to the country's Albanian minority. Aid officials suggest the donors' conference might produce pledges of 100-million dollars, a large amount for this small Balkan economy. The money would be available to support a government budget that is being severely strained by unexpected military expenditures. This year Macedonia has spent 35-million dollars of the foreign exchange it received from privatizing its phone company on arms purchases and other security expenditures. Biswajit Banerjee is the International Monetary Fund official responsible for Macedonia.

    /// BANERJEE ACT ///

    The insurgency crisis has led to a widening and deterioration of the fiscal situation. There has been loss of foreign exchange associated with it, directly on the expenditure side. The economy has also been weakened and therefore revenues have fallen.

    /// END ACT ///

    Armed ethnic Albanians began their insurgency in February. The peace agreement with its fragile cease - fire was signed less than a month ago. Inside Macedonia people are skeptical that the peace agreement will hold. Civil war, once NATO forces withdraw, is considered a continuing threat. A further uncertainty is the likelihood of early parliamentary elections. I-M-F official Banerjee worries that preparations for elections will delay needed restructuring of Macedonia's still largely state directed economy.

    /// BANERJEE 2ND ACT ///

    It is true that probably between now and the elections, realistically, nothing much can be expected. But if the economy is to recover on a track of sustained high growth, enterprise restructuring is essential. Ultimately it is a matter of political will.

    /// END ACT ///

    The I-M-F is considering new lending for Macedonia, but that will not take place until December at the earliest. Previous I-M-F lending was curtailed because the budget exceeded promised levels. Macedonia has endured a series of economic jolts in recent years. In 1999 it had to absorb tens-of-thousands of refugees forced out of Kosovo. It then became a staging ground for NATO's military intervention in Kosovo. This year's insurgency has reduced exports and the economy has been severely disrupted. Its currency remains stable and the economy is still growing but at a slower-than-expected pace. (SIGNED)
    NEB/BW/ALW/RAE SLUG: 2-280231 Macedonia Weapons (L-O) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:



    INTRO: NATO's collection of weapons from Albanian insurgents in Macedonia is now in its second phase. V-O-A's Barry Wood reports from Skopje.

    TEXT: The latest collection point is near the village of Brodec, north of Tetovo close to the Kosovo border. The NATO spokesman in Skopje is American Major Barry Johnson.

    /// JOHNSON ACT ///

    We began establishing it yesterday and it opened at 08:00 this morning. (Macedonian translation) And it is now actively collecting weapons and ammunition. And that is the French-led battle group with German and Spanish troops as well.

    /// END ACT ///

    Major Johnson says NATO's Macedonia force is on schedule toward its goal of collecting 33-hundred insurgent weapons by September 26th.

    /// JOHNSON 2ND ACT ///

    I will tell you that our expectations are being met for this phase. And we are very confident that we are moving forward at the pace we had anticipated.

    /// END ACT ///

    With a late-August cease-fire generally holding, ethnic-Albanian refugees are continuing to return to their homes. U-N officials say seven-thousand refugees have returned to Macedonia from Kosovo in recent days, but 44-thousand remain there. The seven-month-old insurgency has displaced more than 100-thousand people. A peace agreement working its way through the Macedonian parliament grants increased powers to ethnic-Albanians, who comprise nearly one-third of Macedonia's population. With the cease-fire still fragile, Western European countries are considering extending their military presence in Macedonia beyond its late-September deadline. With amnesty for the insurgents a critical component of the peace agreement, ethnic Albanians favor the protection offered by a continued NATO presence, something opposed by most Macedonian politicians. (SIGNED)
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