FRI, 03 JUN 1994 23:13:43 GMT
UN Security Council sanctions have ruined the economy of Serbia and Montenegro, but strengthened the power of Milosevic's elite which used the pressure from abroad as a pretext for all the misfortunes the war brought for the territories in Bosnia.
AIM, BELGRADE, June 1, 1994
In Belgrade, the second anniversary of the introduction of UN Security Council sanctions was marked by a series of triumphant statements made by the highest officials, so that one could get a perverted impression that the "day of the Blockade" would replace the at one time celebrated "Day of Youth" (Tito's birthday) as the main event in the May "freedom-celebrating festivities". The President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, stimulated this by declarations that the sanctions could do no harm to the Serbs, because they were strong, and that only a thousand-year blockade might harm them, that there was no computer in the world which could calculate what a Serbian peasant could do and endure. The authorities are encouraged after the initial success of Dragoslav Avramovic's program, and he himself spurs the ostensible triumph by his stance that his plan has enabled Yugoslavia to "get away from the sanctions scot-free". Parallel with this new wave of boasting under the slogan "the sanctions can do us no harm", appearances of the federal Prime Minister, Radoje Kontic, and his Vice-President, Zeljko Simic, are swarming with facts about enormous damage caused by the sanctions to the economy of Yugoslavia, as well as to the standard of living and health of its population. Assessments coming from the Federal Government also speak of the direct damage od the sanctions amounting to about 40 billion dollars, while some experts believe that the total damage exceeds 130 billion dollars. A noted economist and an official of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, Oskar Kovac, observes that the results of the sanctions still cannot be fully recognized and warns that the gross social product of about 23 billion in 1990 dropped last year to about 7 billion dollars. What does, then, the slogan: "the sanctions can do us no harm" refer to?
Milosevic and his authorities have proved that the sanctions have actually done no harm to them, nor have they ended the war in Bosnia, nor have they alleviated the tensions between the Serbs and the Croats in Krajina. Just as many political analysts predicted, isolation from the world not only failed to shake up Milosevic's domination, but rather, similar to the pressures on Enver Hodza, Fidel Castro, Moamer el Gadafi or Saddam Husein, contributed to conservation of the power matrix which suffocated Serbia and which was the cause for initiation of the aggressive policy in the first place, as a "defense against changes" within the system and structure of the former SFRY. World blockade simply screened these key causes of pauperizing Serbia and Montenegro, so the people perceive it as the cause of their misery, and not the policy which forced the Security Council to vote and adopt this counter-productive, vindictive measure. Only this counter-effect (and the generally weak opposition) can explain the fact the socialist have remained in power, even after the last-year elections when the inflation reached the incredible 352,000 billion per cent.
The policy of self-isolation was, actually, initiated by Milosevic's regime itself way back on November 29, 1989, when it decided to isolate Slovenia after "the rally on the truth on Kosovo" was banned in Ljubljana. In fact, the intention was not only to punish the Slovenians for their political support of the Albanians in Kosovo, but to "protect" Serbia and the SFRY against a wave of strongest demands for introduction of political pluralism and for a series of inviolable civil political rights which had started in Ljubljana. Serbian economy started paying the price at the time already, since it had highly developed business relations with Slovenia. Ever since, the economy of Serbia and Montenegro has operated under almost impossible conditions, so that instead of the second anniversary of the sanctions, one could easily speak of the five-year isolation. Here are just a few figures from the "balance sheet of success" of Milosevic's five-year rule. The gross social product of Serbia and Montenegro, immediately after the internsl interruption of economic relations with Croatia and Slovenia dropped by 8.4 per cent already in 1990. In the following 1991, which ended with the unilateral suspensions of the trade agreement with the SFRY by the European Union (European blockade), the social product of the FRY dropped further, by 11.1 per cent. Then 1992 followed, when on May 30, UN Security Council Resolution 757??? came into force, and the social product had already dropped by disastrous 27 per cent. This new blow was the result of the still "permeable measures of the blockade", because they did not block the intermediaries - the Serbs from the territories of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, nor was the "transit" of foreign transporters prevented and of foreign commodities (which often ended up with purchasers in the FRY). After the additional tightening of the blockade by Resolution 757??? (November 1992) and the final hermetic closing by Resolution 820 (May 1993), the social product in Yugoslavia dropped by another 30 per cent. The level of production of Yugoslav industries is, on the average, at about 45 per cent of the usual level of several years ago, and in many branches it dropped as low as 20 per cent (heavy metal, petrochemical, car industries etc.). But, it was the worst for the population. Purchasing power of day wages has dropped to less than one third of the "pre-war level". Besides classical unemployment of about 650,000 people, there is about a million workers who are practically now a surplus manpower. The retired are still practically reduced to hunger, over 50 per cent of health institutions are also a "surplus" because there is no money for their normal operation. The increase of the number of cases of severe diseases is fantastic (tuberculosis, cancer), due to undernourishment, but also to permanent stress caused by war and civilization shock.
It is very difficult to illustrate the summary of profound social changes caused by the civil war, economic chaos and results of the sanctions. Hyperinflation, which always implies a vast redistribution of wealth, destroyed the middle layers, empoverished the intellectuals (educated classes), and strengthened the narrow circle of the highest stratum of the state apparatus and created a layer of excessively rich profiteers.
The triumphant manner in which the second anniversary of the sanctions was marked is founded on the momentary success of Avramovic's anti-inflation program. Its success can best be explained by a metaphore of a "lucky" man, who after a wrong diagnosis and even worse treatment, had both his legs and arms caught by gangrene of hyper-inflation amputated, and now he feels great relief and satisfaction that the doctors have saved him at the last moment. Mr Avramovic explained that best, when he said that the price of his program had been paid before it even started. That is why the implementation of the program runs smoothly, and seems "ingenious" because it apparently demands no sacrifices. And they have already been made. Despite everything and notwithstanding the "celebration of the day of the blockade", all the factors in the FR Yugoslavia appeal for lifting of the sanctions, because everyone in his right mind is aware that without a return to the international community and the world market, there is no hope for Yugoslavia in the long run. Milosevic would certainly triumphantly use the lifting of the world sanctions at first, but he would soon find himself at a crossroad again, and faced with a difficult decision for him where to turn - towards an open society or into a new "controlled isolation" which so far fastened him so firmly to his post. That is the reason why the sanctions ought to be lifted as soon as possible.
Dimitrije Boarov, AIM