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Serbian GDP Shrinks More Than Expected as Austerity Damps Demand

Serbia’s economy contracted more than estimated in the last quarter of 2012 as government austerity measures damped household demand and prompted a decline in construction.

Gross domestic product shrank 2 percent from the same period a year earlier, compared with a preliminary estimate of a 1.5 percent decline, the national statistics office in Belgrade said today. GDP fell 1.7 percent for the full year.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic’s Cabinet, in office less than one year, has pledged to narrow the fiscal gap to 3.6 percent of gross domestic product this year from 6.7 percent in 2012, as well as curb price increases and restart growth to qualify for talks with the International Monetary Fund on a new precautionary loan. One out of four Serbs is jobless.

Serbia’s planned fiscal consolidation for 2013-2015 may “shave off over 1 percent of GDP on average,” ratings assessor Standard and Poor’s said in a statement yesterday. “As a result, we believe medium-term growth drivers will be difficult to identify unless the government is more strenuous in its reforms to the labor market and public sector.”

The government targets economic growth of 2 percent this year, fueled by car sales from Fiat’s unit in Serbia and increased exports of crude oil products.

Revised figures released by the statistics office today showed GDP contracted 2.7 percent in the first quarter, followed by a 0.3 percent drop in the following three months and a 2.1 percent decline in the July-September period. The office previously estimated that GDP fell 2.3 percent in the first three months, followed by a 0.6 percent decline in the next quarter and 2.5 percent drop in the third quarter.

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