Kosovo lawmakers pass 2014 budget

Prishtinë, November 2013 (Reuters) – Lawmakers in Kosovo approved on Thursday, Nov 21, the proposed budget for next year.

The 1.6 billion-euro draft budget – that targets a deficit of 2 percent of national output, which the government plans to fund mainly through treasury bills – was approved by 59 votes to 31 in the 120-seat parliament.

The government plans to secure a new stand-by arrangement with the International Monetary Fund after the expiry of a 107-million-euro program in December.

A current government crisis has stalled parliamentary approval of the 277 million euro ($372.88 million) sale of Kosovo’s telecom company, the country’s most profitable state-owned enterprise.

It has also hurt Kosovo’s efforts to lure foreign investors to a country where official unemployment stands at 35 percent.

IMF forecast Kosovo’s economy to expand by 2.5 percent in 2013 and 4 percent in 2014, driven in part by remittances, foreign aid and construction.

Remittances from an estimated 800,000 Kosovars working in Western Europe account for about 14 percent of gross domestic product, the highest rate in the region.

“Our economy will continue to resist foreign shocks and will have the biggest growth in the region,” Finance Minister Besim Beqaj told parliament.

The opposition accuses the government of squandering state money on salaries and road-building, rather than education, health or agriculture. One third of the budget has been earmarked for construction of a new highway to Kosovo’s southern neighbor Macedonia and stretches of two other regional roads.

Reuters / By Fatos Bytyci