Serbian Lawmakers Approve Cabinet Shuffle Focused on New Jobs

Serbia’s Parliament approved a Cabinet shuffle as Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic focuses on job creation and increasing living standards before heading into elections next year.

Lawmakers voted 129-19 late yesterday in favor in the 250-seat legislature a week after Cvetkovic said he was downsizing his Cabinet and adding the finance minister’s portfolio to his duties as premier for the final year of his term. The three largest opposition parties, which together hold 102 seats, walked out of the lower house before the vote.

The government, the longest-serving since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, is clinging to power after clashing with Mladjan Dinkic, the leader of the junior coalition party G17 Plus. Last month, Cvetkovic ousted Dinkic, his former deputy, raising the risk of a government collapse and early elections. The next general elections are scheduled for 2012.

“The citizens of Serbia should live better today, now, and we will do everything to make that happen,” Cvetkovic said before the vote.

The ruling coalition, dominated by the Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic, is facing growing public discontent after unemployment hit 19.2 percent. It is trying to survive at least until Oct. 12, when European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule may deliver the bloc’s opinion on whether Serbia is ready to become a candidate to join the EU.

The overhauled government will retain its commitments to fast EU entry, keeping Kosovo a part of Serbia, fighting crime and corruption and cooperating fully with the Hague War Crimes Tribunal as two war crimes fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, remain at large, Cvetkovic said.

‘Live Better’

To improve living standards, the government will implement measures to ensure the supply of basic consumer goods at “prices acceptable for all citizens,” he said. The government also plans new incentives for job creation and to reduce public spending and the fiscal deficit, according to Cvetkovic.

Under its 3 billion-euro ($4.2 billion) bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, Serbia needs to keep its 2011 fiscal gap below 4.1 percent of GDP. The Balkan country ended 2010 with a shortfall of 4.4 percent, below the 4.8 percent plan.

Serbia’s economy contracted 3 percent in 2009 as foreign investors pulled out during the global financial crisis and the dinar lost 40 percent of its value against the euro. The economy is expected to grow 3 percent this year from 1.7 percent in 2010.

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