The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested about USD 663 million in Serbia, through various projects, in the period from 2001 until today. USAID has helped implement new investments in Serbia, worth about USD 2.3 billion, and enabled new sales of domestic products, worth about USD 377 million - said Director of the USAID Mission to Serbia Susan Fritz.
At a ceremony occasioned by the celebration of the tenth anniversary of USAID's operations in Serbia and the 50th anniversary of the provision of international assistance worldwide, she explained that, in addition to encouraging investments, creating new jobs and boosting exports, the Agency's projects had also contributed to the strengthening of media and non-government organizations.
- The US Agency for International Development has helped the formation of the Citizens Assistance Center in 32 municipalities in order to make it easier for everyone to obtain required permits. We also worked on the renewal of banking system and the reform of payment system, and we assisted in the issuance of the first municipal bonds in Serbia in early October – Ms. Fritz explained.
The Director of the Mission to Serbia added that the focus of USAID's operations in Serbia over the previous five years had moved toward the cooperation with the government and government institutions, whereas it was initially placed on the cooperation with representatives of local communities.
- Through the Municipal Economic Growth Activity (MEGA) program, which was implemented in the period between 2005 and 2010, we helped the creation of 16,000 new jobs and the opening of about 500 companies – Susan Fritz stressed.
Director of the USAID Office of Economic Growth Susan Kutor explained that their assistance primarily consisted of activities aimed at improving the legislation and enforcing new laws.
- Our plan for the future is to primarily focus on the improvement of the system of issuing building permits, as well as on the reform of inspection system - Ms. Kutor told eKapija.
- Through talks, meetings and several round tables we have organized, representatives of various companies have revealed to us that the complex system of inspections in Serbia represents one of serious issues in operations. That is why we have started working with the Serbian government in this field, and we will strive to form an authority to coordinate the work of all inspections – said Susan Kutor.
She added that USAID stimulated the growth of operations of private companies and promoted local economic development by creating an environment facilitating the development of operations.
Thus, for example, the Agribusiness project provided a technical assistance to hundreds of companies and a training in writing business plans for 300 women from rural areas, and it also supported the sale of USD 116 million worth of agricultural products from Serbia.
The Agribusiness project is in its final year of implementation, and one of its results is the formation of seven associations of manufacturers, which helped small firms enter the market.
This year USAID launched a five-year project worth USD 22 million, aimed at creating inter-municipal partnerships, so-called "clusters". The plan is to urge representatives of local authorities, civil society and private companies to cooperate in order to prolong the life of these partnerships for as long as possible. Four partnerships have been formed so far - in Vranje, Nis, Novi Sad and Novi Pazar, and the plan is to form another four by the year's end. The idea is to form a total of 12 partnerships by the end of the project, all of which should be gathered around major cities.
Director of the USAID Democracy and Governance Office Peter Wiebler said that the Agency had also launched a five-year project aimed at reforming the judicial system, increasing the responsibility of authorities, enabling more efficient work of courts, and assisting in the fight against corruption. The project is different from all previous ones because it was designed in direct cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and representatives of judicial system and newly formed agencies.
- We support reforms that will enable Serbia to join the European Union, and we work on making women, ethnic minorities and young people a part of the political process - said Wiebler.
The US Agency for International Development has so far trained over 2,000 media professionals and 1,100 NGO activists, and over USD 11 million worth of non-refundable grants have been allotted for the operations in that sector.
The USA earmarked USD 35.2 million for an aid to Serbia in the 2011 budget.USAID will officially celebrate the tenth anniversary of operations in Serbia and the 50th anniversary of the provision of international assistance worldwide on November 3, 2011.