Serb Pensioners Rally Against Pension Cuts Aimed to Curb Deficit

Serbian pensioners protested on Wednesday against cuts in their pensions, a key part in the government’s plan to reduce state spending and budget deficit.

“We are here to seek justice, to tell the government, which is stealing our pensions, that it can’t go on like this for much longer,” Milorad Vujasinovic, the leader of the Serbian union of pensioners, told the rally on Wednesday.

About 1,000 demonstrators from 14 cities called on lawmakers to withdraw the bill during deliberations and for the Constitutional Court to rule if the measure is legal. If the court supports the law, the demonstrators intend to take Serbia to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, according to Vujasinovic.

Curbing welfare spending is part of the Balkan nation’s program to strengthen state finances. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic introduced a motion in November to cut pensions gradually and curb public wages by 10 percent over three years to narrow the budget shortfall as a condition for securing a stand-by loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Reduced public wages and pensions, lower than planned state investments, improved revenue collection, and higher dividend payments from big state-owned companies have helped bring the budget deficit to around 27 billion dinars in the first three months, half the amount agreed with the IMF.

Vucic has repeatedly promised to ask the IMF to relax conditions on austerity later this year if fiscal consolidation takes hold.

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