U.S. donated another USD 22 million in grants to Serbia
May 15 2018 | Belgrade
The United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Government of Serbia have concluded today the agreements whereby the United States has donated another USD 22 million in grants to Serbia.
The money is intended for strengthening the competitiveness, the rule of law and for the strengthening of the functioning of state institutions, the improvement of the media environment and the fight against corruption.
The agreements have been signed by Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović, U.S. Ambassador Kyle Scott and USAID Mission Director in Serbia Azza El-Abd.
After the signing of the agreements, minister Joksimović has pointed out that, despite the fact that the political relations between the U.S. and Serbia have had their ups and downs sometimes, the United States has been unquestionably and concretely helping the development and reforms in Serbia since 2001, including the European path of Serbia.
"Since 2001, the United States had, in one way or another, made around USD 1 billion available to Serbia for reforms, development and improvement of various areas of life at the local level in Serbia. I would like to stress that these are neither loans nor credits, but non-repayable aid in the form of grants," Joksimović has said.
She has noted that it is important for the citizens of Serbia to know about this segment of relations with the United States as well.
Minister Joksimović has recalled that the U.S. assistance was not intended only for Belgrade, but also for local communities and smaller towns where, in the past years, the U.S., USAID and the U.S. Embassy have provided assistance for improving the market economy, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and for promoting local economic development.
"Today, we have signed amendments to the agreements that provide additional USD 22.2 million, also in grants, for more efficient administration and public administration, and, on the other hand, for strengthening the competitiveness at the local level - through the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and generally of entrepreneurial initiatives with our citizens" the minister has said.
She has pointed out that Serbia, as a candidate for EU membership, is primarily trying to use the European integrations for the purpose of sustainable regional development, in addition to all the conditions, opening of chapters and meeting the criteria.
"The essence of the EU, in addition to political criteria and economic progress, is the cohesion regional policy and solidarity policy that should lead to the reduction of inequalities in different areas and regions of the EU," Joksimović has pointed out.
This is, she has added, the policy where we are preparing to have the capacity to use the cohesion funds, structural funds...
She has recalled that Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and some of our neighbours have used billions of euros from these funds in order to boost their economy and agriculture and various industries.
"The United States is one of the most important partners to financially support our path to the EU and all of these development opportunities and potentials," Joksimović has stressed.
She has also recalled the good cooperation with the U.S. and USAID on various projects, especially highlighting the project of development of the Southern and South-Western Serbia, i.e. the municipalities that are underdeveloped.
The U.S. Ambassador has noted that the long-standing U.S. assistance can be observed on a recently published interactive map on the U.S. Embassy's website.
As he has noted, more than 1,850 points are indicated on the map, where each point represents the activity of U.S. support in terms of school renovation, road pavement, all the way to the restoration of the cultural monuments.
"I invite all Serbian citizens to take a look at the map and see how much the American aid had contributed to their local communities in the country," Scott has said, noting that the map shows only infrastructure activities supported by the U.S. Government.
The other type of assistance, as he has said, includes working with governmental and non-governmental organizations on reforms that are important for the democratic and economic development of Serbia, as well as for the welfare of its citizens, even though it may not be visible enough.
"Working together with the Government of Serbia, the business sector and the civil society, we have enabled facilitated and more transparent obtaining of building permits, which has contributed to greater construction activity and job creation in the construction industry, with companies having emerged from the zone of grey economy and reducing the opportunities for corruption," the U.S. Ambassador has said.
He has noted that, according to the Doing Business list of the World Bank, Serbia is among the top 10 ranked countries in the world when it comes to the issuance of building permits.
"Our assistance has enabled the renovation of Misdemeanour Courts throughout Serbia, as well as the introduction of the Electronic Court Case Management Systems, which has brought more than EUR 100 million to the budget through court costs and charged penalties, and has contributed to the reduction in the number of old cases," Scott has added.
He has also said that the U.S. assistance was used to rehabilitate schools, social centres and roads at the local self-government level, while the electronic administration was introduced in 83 municipalities which, as he has said, simplified the procedure for Serbian citizens in regards to the changing their residential address or entry into the registries.
His Government, Scott has said, has helped with the preparation of the first Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers, which made it easier to report the cases of corruption and fraud.
"Our help means partnership - we are working directly with the Government of Serbia, with today's event being a proof of that, as well as with the private sector and civil society in order to identify the challenges which Serbia is facing," Scott has concluded.