Good targets, out of sight

Mirjana Dokmanovic, PhD
Danica Drakulic, PhD
Association Technology and Society

Lack of long-term visions, commitment and comprehensive strategies, as well as the economic crisis, jeopardise achievements of MDGs in Serbia.

Serbia’s lack of any long-term vision or commitment as well as any comprehensive development strategies, make it difficult to counter the negative impact of the global economic crisis and establish a solid basis for economic growth, including increased jobs and livelihoods. In this context, with weak democratic institutions and lacking the rule of law, that the MDGs are unlikely to be achieved by 2015. There is thus a strong need to change the current neoliberal economic development paradigm to one that will focus on achieving human development for all.

In 2005, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the first MDG review, assessing progress and trends for each goal. In 2006, it set up a multisectoral task force to customize MDG targets and indicators to the specific needs and problems of the citizens. The process involved CSOs, professional organizations, the business sector and the media. The task force developed the MDG Monitoring Framework for Serbia, whereby targets and indicators are aligned with national priorities, strategies and legislation.

One of the main challenges in tracking progress towards development goals is the existence of multiple strategies prepared according to sectorial criteria. The MDG Monitoring Framework takes into consideration priorities expressed in the only two multi-sectorial strategies, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), adopted by the Government in 2003, and the European Union Integration Strategy . The Republic of Serbia was granted the status of EU membership candidate country in March 2012, and consequently, the issues of social inclusion and poverty reduction has become a mandatory component of EU integration policy. This fact has contributed to start establishing a system for monitoring indicators of social inclusion and poverty reduction agreed at EU level.

In 2012, Serbia was selected as one among, then 56 countries, in which national consultations about UN post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals were held. As concluded, there are no sufficient new data, neither available reliable sources for all indicators, but there enough information as to derive conclusions about main tendencies and critical gaps in achieving of MDGs .

Goal 1: Poverty and employment – Not achieved

The unemployment rate is among the highest in Europe and poverty is increasing. Accordingly to the 2009 National Report of the Realization of MDGs , the total poverty rate in 2007 was halved in comparison to 2002 (14% vs. 6.6%), and the extreme poverty rate was close to zero. The latest data have shown that this positive trend was only a matter of the used methodology for monitoring poverty reduction.  The 2012 Report , based on a different, newly established methodology and system for monitoring indicators of poverty reduction harmonized with the EU standards, shows increasing trend of poverty. In 2010, 9.2% of population lived below absolute poverty line, in comparison to 8.8% in 2006, while Gini coefficient rose from 32.9 to 33.0 . Majority of the poor live in rural areas, in multimember families, have a low level of education, and are unemployed. Poverty is very high in some groups and regions (Roma, South Serbia, rural areas), and a large number of citizens is just above the poverty line. The number of children living in poverty is growing (11.6% in 2006 vs. 13.7% in 2010).

 

The first research on homeless in Serbia done in 2012 has turned the attention to this publicly invisible and hidden issue. Although there is no credible data about the number of homeless, the capacity of existing shelters in 12 municipalities and cities, mainly established after 2004, are insufficient, especially in winter. The research identified structural and systematic causes of homelessness, as unavailability of flats at market rates, insufficient capacity of social housing, absence of social measures, the growth of structural unemployment and poverty, and the complete disregard of the prevention of homelessness and possible resources of support. With the exception of the residents of the Roma settlements, the majority of homeless are those who lost the job due to economic restructuring and who have retired. Generally, they are excluded from the social welfare and health care system. The NGO Housing Centre opened a wider debated on homelessness in Serbia and proposed policy changes at the first conference on this issue in May 2012.

Due to the low level of demand for jobs, frequent dismissals, high level of bankruptcies and low salaries, almost a half of citizens perceive themselves at risk of poverty . From the latest National Report on the MDGs published in 2009, the unemployment rate increased from 16.4% to 26.1% in September 2012, while trends related to employment are negative. Almost one third of young aged 25-34 are without a job. The percentage of long-term unemployment is 61.8%.

On the other hand, the budgetary support of the active measures of employment has been reduced from 0.18% of GDP in 2011 to 0.10% of GDP in 2012. It is in contrary to the National Employment Strategy 2010-2020 that demands increasing of this budgetary line to 0.4% of GDP in 2013 up to 0.5% of GDP in 2020.

The UN report on the MDG Barometer 2013 indicates that it is employment and economic growth that should be put at the top of priorities in order to initiate a new cycle of development. The new Government, formed after the elections in March 2014, has announced to launch a Program of Structural Reforms 2015-2017. Unfortunately, it is not realistic to expect that this will accelerate progress towards full employment under Goal 1, as there is no sign that the current neoliberal economic context will be tackled.

Goal 2: Primary school enrollment and completion – Not achieved

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia guarantees the right of mandatory and free education to all - preschool (nine months before starting school) and an eight-year-long primary education.

The number of school-aged children not enrolled in primary schools is increasing (2.1% in 2008/9 vs. 3.9% in 2010/11) , as well as the pupil drop-out rate in the eight class of primary school (0.56% in 2002/3 vs. 0.79% in 2009/10) . Indicators of coverage and primary school completion are much less favourable when it comes to rural and Roma children . In the next period, special attention should be paid to measures that will make education system more accessible to children from vulnerable groups.

Goal 3: Gender equality and empowerment of women – Partially achieved

An overview of the situation and trends indicates some positive steps concerning the realization of Millennium Development Goal 3. The National Strategy and the Action Plan for advancement of women address the key issues related to improving the position of women and achieving gender equality. The area of economic participation is one of the key social spheres that not only reflects, but also redefines and transforms the gender regimes. Although some progress was achieved, economic gender inequalities are still rather pronounced. They are manifested in the unequal position of men and women in the labour market, unequal awards for performance at work, and less opportunities for women to advance to positions of economic power and decision making .

The difference in the employment rate between women and men of working age (15 - 64 years) did decrease in recent years, but it is still pronounced. In 2005, the employment rate for men stood at 52.4% and 32.9% for women, while in 2010 the employment rate for men stood at 45.3% and 31.1% for women . The key elements of de iure system foundations for the improvement of gender equality have been established, but there are still many tasks to be completed.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality – Partially achieved

This goal has almost been met, but the trend has been turning to stagnation in last couple of years .

In 2008, mortality of children under the age of five in the Republic of Serbia stood at 7.8 deaths per 1000 live births. Mortality rates are significantly dropping both among children under the age of five and among infants, in the perinatal and in neonatal periods. This is certainly due to better coverage by modern antenatal and postnatal health care, but also due to improvements in immunization coverage. Vaccination coverage is growing and reaching high values. Even with these improvements, there are significant disparities to be noted, according to regional level and socio-economic status. There is an opposite trend of decrease in percentage of exclusively breastfed infants, particularly among Roma population .

Research indicates that among the Roma, the mortality rate of children under the age of five is up to three time s higher than the Serbian average , while vaccination coverage is substantially lower. Indicators are especially unfavourable for the population living in Roma settlements.

Goal 5: Maternal and reproductive health – Partially achieved

Promotion of women's health in the reproductive period does show some improvements, such as a reduction in mortality of women of reproductive age from all causes of death, as well as from cancer . Almost all childbirths are happening in the presence of a medical worker . Figures also show a reduction in the abortion rate and an increase in the use of modern contraceptive methods, even though there are certain reservations related to a possible incomplete registration of abortions . Special attention should be paid to the continuously decreasing fertility rate and adequate health support to mothers.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases – Almost achieved

This Goal has been met to a great extent, especially with regard to HIV/AIDS incidence . In 2008, the AIDS incidence rate was 5.1 per one million people, while the AIDS mortality rate in 2008 stood at 3 per one million people. There are three times more men than women among the AIDS patients and persons who died from it and the majority of them were in the age group between 30 and 39 . AIDS incidence and mortality rates are decreasing. The incidence rate has dropped from 10.4 in 2000 to 5.1 in 2008, and the mortality rate has dropped from 5.6 to 3 deceased persons per one million people . The new National Strategy for response on HIV and AIDS  for the period 2011 – 2015 aims at preventing of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections, and providing treatment and support to all people living with HIV.

The tuberculosis incidence rate in 2011 was 24 per 100,000 people, and the percentage of successfully treated patients for 2010 was 86 . Considerable results were achieved in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases. The activities implemented with significant support of international institutions have resulted in the reduction of AIDS and tuberculosis incidence, as well as the reduction of mortality related to AIDS.

Goal 7: Environmental sustainability – Partially achieved

Adoption of the National Sustainable Development Strategy and a whole set of laws in line with EU legislation in recent years created a solid basis for the prevention of loss of resources, protection of nature, waste management and encouraging recycling, reduction of air pollution and chemicals management. Certain progress has been achieved in the supply of water to the population from the public waterworks system and the improvement of drinking water quality. Besides, a progress was made in the area of providing access to the public sewage system. However, communal wastewater treatment and waste management infrastructure remain the key challenges. There is room for improvement in energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources, which is now mostly reduced to hydro energy and biomass .

Goal 8: Global partnerships for development – Not achieved

The achievement of the Millennium Development Goals entails a dynamic and sustainable growth of GDP by 2015. Between 2005 and 2008, Serbia has achieved an economic growth, and the average GDP growth rate in this period was 6% . Unfortunately, the macroeconomic trends in recent years are not favourable. GDP per capita dropped from 5,507 USD in 2009 to 5,279 in 2012 . The public debt has increased from 29.2% of GDP in 2008 to 62.3% of GDP in March 2014 . The share of indebtedness and foreign trade deficit in GDP are above critical limits. The foreign debt reached 76% of GDP. Fiscal deficit increased to more than 2.4 billion USD. Exports, which were already considerably lower than imports, were reduced to 17% of GDP in the first half of 2012, as a consequence of the drop in export demand.

Under these circumstances, it should be assessed that public expenditures for health care, social care and education would continue shrinking.

Conclusion

The latest phase of the Serbian transition to the market economy, started in 2001, was not modelled with a clear vision of achieving economic prosperity of the country and livelihoods of all, but solely of livelihoods of a minority holding economic and political power. Instead of promised economic prosperity, privatization of socially-owned enterprises led to destroying of the national economy, closure of factories, mass dismissal of workers, fading of domestic products, and uncontrolled import of foreign goods. Due to the high level of corruption and crime, increasing indebtedness, the lack of effective economic and social policy, and the absence of long-term visions and multisectoral strategies, Serbia cannot counter the consequences of the economic crisis and establish a solid basis for economic growth, and increase of employment, salaries, livelihoods and quality of life. In this economic context, with weak democratic institutions and in absence of the rule of law, it is clear that the MDGs cannot be achieved.  Therefore, there is a strong need for changing the current economic and development paradigm, and for creating the new one that will focus to achieving a human development for all. There are a lot of initiatives with this respect coming from civil society, women’s groups, trade unions and independent experts, but their voices are still not heard by those who take decisions and shape policies.

Notes:

MDG Monitor Report http://www.mdgmonitor.org/factsheets_00.cfm?c=SRB&cd=688 (accessed 10 October 2012)

United Nations in Serbia, Serbia We Want – Post-2015 National Consultations in Serbia – MDG Barometer, 2013. p. 1. http://www.srbijakakvuzelim.rs/index.php/mdg/index/en (accessed 3 June 2014)

Gordana Krstic et al., Progress of the Realization of Millennium Development Goals of the Republic of Serbia, (Belgrade: UNDP, 2009), 35.

Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit and Republic Statistical Office, Monitoring Social Inclusion in Serbia: Overview and Current Status of Social Inclusion in Serbia Based on Monitoring European and National Indicators 2006-2012, (Belgrade: Government of the Republic of Serbia, 2012)

Ibid. p. 26.

Ibid. p. 27.

Branislava Zarkovic et al. Without a house, without a home: Results of the research on homelessness in Serbia (Belgrade: Housing Center, 2012).

Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit and Republic Statistical Office, Monitoring Social Inclusion in Serbia: Overview and Current Status of Social Inclusion in Serbia Based on Monitoring European and National Indicators 2006-2012, (Belgrade: Government of the Republic of Serbia, 2012) 29.

United Nations in Serbia, Serbia We Want – Post-2015 National Consultations in Serbia – MDG Barometer, 2013. http://www.srbijakakvuzelim.rs/index.php/mdg/index/en (accessed 3 June 2014)

Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit and Republic Statistical Office, Monitoring Social Inclusion in Serbia: Overview and Current Status of Social Inclusion in Serbia Based on Monitoring European and National Indicators 2006-2012, (Belgrade: Government of the Republic of Serbia, 2012). p. 52.

Ibid. p. 53.

Gordana Krstic et al., Progress of the Realization of Millennium Development Goals of the Republic of Serbia, (Belgrade: UNDP, 2009), p. 136.

National Statistical Office, Women and Men in the Republic of Serbia (Belgrade: National Statistical Office, 2011); Republic of Serbia. Gender Equality Directorate web site <www.gendernet.rs> . United Nations in Serbia, Serbia We Want – Post-2015 National Consultations in Serbia – MDG Barometer, 2013. p. 7-8.

National Statistical Office, Labor Force Survey 2010 (Belgrade: National Statistical Office, 2010).

United Nations in Serbia, Serbia We Want – Post-2015 National Consultations in Serbia – MDG Barometer, 2013. p. 10-12.

Ibid. p. 12.

Ibid. p. 10. ; “Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut”, Country Progress Report January 2010 – December 2011 < http://www.unaids.org/en/dataanalysis/knowyourresponse/countryprogressreports/2012countries/ce_RS_Narrative_Report%5B1%5D.pdf> (accessed 6 November 2012).

National Statistical Office, Women and Men in the Republic of Serbia (Belgrade: National Statistical Office, 2011), 106-112.

United Nations in Serbia, Serbia We Want – Post-2015 National Consultations in Serbia – MDG Barometer, 2013. p. 14.

United Nations Development Programme Serbia web site  <http://www.undp.org.rs/?event=public.mdgTargets5>  (accessed 3 October 2012)

United Nations in Serbia, Serbia We Want – Post-2015 National Consultations in Serbia – MDG Barometer, 2013. p. 17.

Public Health Institute of Serbia, Report on Contagious Diseases in 2010. In the Republic of Serbia (Belgrade: Public Health Institute of Serbia, 2011)

“Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut”, Country Progress Report January 2010 – December 2011, < http://www.unaids.org/en/dataanalysis/knowyourresponse/countryprogressreports/2012countries/ce_RS_Narrative_Report%5B1%5D.pdf> (accessed 6 November 2012).

United Nations Development Programme Serbia web site <http://www.undp.org.rs/?event=public.mdgTargets7>  (accessed 3 October 2012)

United Nations Development Programme Serbia web site <http://www.undp.org.rs/?event=public.mdgTargets8>  (accessed 3 October 2012)

Ministry of Finance. Current Macroeconomic Tendencies – May 2014. http://www.mfin.gov.rs/UserFiles/File/tabele/2014%20maj/Tekuca%20makroekonomska%20kretanja%20mfin%2021.pdf (accessed 3 June 2014)

Ibidem.

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