Serbia’s debt to China currently stands at 1.2 billion euros according to official data, but experts have warned that this figure could increase with the planning of new projects.

According to the Public Debt Authority, Serbia owes China around 1.2 billion euros, along with another two billion euros in loans from Chinese banks.

Serbian authorities have taken out at least 11 loans from China’s Exim bank to finance the construction of roads, railways and electricity industry projects. These loans will be repaid over a period of at least 20 years.

The largest loan (830.5 million euros) was granted for the reconstruction of the railway between Novi Sad and the border with Hungary. Another loan to Serbia amounted to $ 350 million and was taken to finance the reconstruction of the Belgrade-Stara Pazova railway.

Then there is a loan of 374 million euros for the Preljina-Pozega highway which is under construction by the China Communications Construction Company and 208 million euros for the Surcin-Obrenoavac road. Most of these loans were granted on condition that Chinese companies were involved in the projects.

Journalist Mijat Lakicevic warned that the numbers are not the total because the relevant data is not all in one place. He said the debt reached up to eight billion euros and could reach 15 billion if you count all the projects planned. This would represent a third of Serbia’s total external debt.

Lakicevic also said that agreements reached without a tender are more expensive and added that part of the money must be redirected to the Serbian authorities.

Journalist Aleksandar Milosevic has warned that the deals lack transparency as they are all done bilaterally with no competition in sight. “The question is how the agreements (with China) are made and whether they are beneficial for Serbia,” he added.

(N1, 09.21.2021)