Date: Sun, 13 Jun 1999 17:49:29 -0500 (CDT)
From: Greek Helsinki Monitor <>
Subject: [balkanhr] Montenegro / War Crises: Economic Catastrophe in Sight
Article: 67435
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Montenegro and the War Crises: Economic Catastrophe in Sight

By Goran Vujovicaim, Podgorica, 31 May 1999

In Montenegro only military targets were hit in NATO attacks so far. In comparison with catastrophic consequences of bombing for the economy of Serbia, Montenegro is seemingly almost intact. However, its economy is virtually paralysed. And to make thinks even more ironic, the greatest effort to block it was invested by the defence forces of the Army of Yugoslavia.

In the past few days, an increasing number of enterprises are announcing that due to the lack of raw and production materials they will be forced to interrupt work. On the main road from Debeli brijeg towards Herceg Novi, twenty odd trucks were for days waiting to get the permit of military authorities to pass. We want you to realize that what we are asking for is not politics but wood-pulp—the essential raw-material for manufacturing paper, the 'to be or not to be' for our factory, manager of Beranka says in his letter to the Navy Command.

But in the Army of Yugoslavia (VJ) there does not seem to be understanding for the severity of the problem which is best illustrated by the example of the Georgian ship called Simba which had brought 3100 tons of flour for Montenegrin commodity reserves. The Georgian ship could not unload its cargo in the Montenegrin port, so the cargo made its way to Dubrovnik. According to the words of Vladimir Nikaljevic, director of Mermont enterprise which had imported the flour for the needs of the Republican Directorate of Commodity Reserves, in order to bring that to Montenegro, 134 trailer-trucks are necessary, and the expenses of such transportation are about 500 German marks per vehicle. Besides, the Port of Bar has in this way lost the job of reloading which is worth about 50 thousand dollars.

The aggravated operation of enterprises is directly reflected on the declining standard of Montenegrin workers, and this reflects on its increasing problem for the government of Montenegro—how to alleviate social consequences of the economic blockade. That is the reason why Georgian flour provoked almost general disapproval of not only the government of Montenegro, but also of entrepreneurs, the trade union and the workers, since a part of the cargo was supposed to be distributed free of charge by the trade union for about 20 thousand workers who did not receive their salaries for last year, and the rest to the social welfare recepients by the Ministry of Labour and Social Care and Supply of Commodity Reserves.

In the beginning of May, Republican minister of the economy Vojin Djukanovic estimated that the damage caused by bombing until then amounted to about 30 million dollars. And what it might amount to until the final resolution of the crisis of Kosovo is among other testified by the recent evaluation of daily losses of the public railway enterprise of Montenegro. As Ranko Medenica, director general of this enterprise stated at the meeting with Filip Vujanovic, prime minister of Montenegro, the railway registers daily losses of between 80 and 100 thousand marks. Except for the mentioned blockade of the port of Bar, the main business station for Montenegrin railway, the losses are partly caused by the interruption of railway traffic with Serbia. The government has promised maximum assistance to this enterprise in order to preserve its infrastructure and overcome the newly created difficulties as painlessly as possible.

But, how can one help Montenegrin tourism? The war has extinguished evn the last gleam of hope that this summer, for the first time after many years, the attractive Montenegrin coast will attract a large number of foreign tourists. The hotels and tourist enterprises can do nothing but take measures to preserve the property and personnel and perhaps make plans for the next summer. It is hard to tell in what way this could be achieved. Tourism was the main item in the revenue of seaside municipalities in which it participated with about 50 per cent (for example in Ulcinj), and up to 75 per cent of the population made its income from it.

Preventing ships from sailing into the port and blocking of border crossings for goods also seriously affects the Aluminium Combine in Podgorica (KAP), the most important Montenegrin exporter. Out of the twenty trucks which were waiting for the permit of military authorities in the so-called yellow zone, twelve were carrying pitch for KAP. Besides, delay of ships which supply KAP with raw materials every day further decrease the possibility to continue production. Perhaps even more threatened—apart from the port itself—are the Bijela shipyard, Niksic steelworks and Cetinje Obod—enterprises the operation of which whole cities depend on.

Formally, the problem is created by all kinds of permits. The authority over Montenegrin border crossings which was in the beginning of last year taken over by the Ministry of Trade of Montenegro, obviously does not concern federal administration whose permits nowadays, thanks to the navy, have greater legal and political weight. But practically, the nature of the issue is purely political. In the attempt to take over control of all vital functions of the Montenegrin state with the help of the army, the federal government applies all possible means. That is why its policy when Montenegrin economic functions are concerned has as much sense as defiant shooting of missiles from navy ships at untouchable NATO bombers from the waters of the port of Bar.

General mobilisation, as well as the attempts to provoke bombers of NATO to strike Montenegro, make the problems for its economy even more complex. Taking conscripts away from their working posts has become alarming. For instance, out of 400 workers of the thermo-electric power plant in Pljevlja, 130 have been called-up along with 500 out of 1300 workers of the coal mine which supplies this power plant with the indispensable fuel. The power plant has in this way been put in the situation to interrupt work before the time for its regular annual repair.

Maintenance of the electric power system in Montenegro has until now greatly depended on the capability of the Electric Company to provide sufficient electric power from Serbia. But, since due to bombing the electric power system of Serbia is practically falling apart, as the only alternative solution remained the power from Republika Srpska. But, the quantity of power that can be imported from that direction is not sufficient for stable operation of the system in Montenegro, and that made the work of the thermo-electric power plant even more significant. That is the reason why the government of Montenegro asked the military authorities to free a part of the conscripts of their military obligation and return them to work, but out of the demanded minimum of about 70 workers of Pljevlja thermo-electric power station and coal mine, only 13 were freed.

From the enterprises such as the port of Bar, KAP, payment operations service, and even municipal services - systems of vital importance for maintenance of vital functions of Montenegro—several thousand workers have been dragged to the ranks of VJ. Recently the emergency centre of hospital in Podgorica protested because of uncontrolled dressing of persons employed in the emergency service into uniform, which significantly made operation of health services difficult. Connoiuseurs of military strategy claim that there is absolutely no military justification for such mobilisation in Montenegro. But it obviously fits into efforts to make operation of the legally elected authorities in Montenegro impossible and turn discontent of the population in their direction.

In this spectre of problems, the special aggravating circumstances are created by about 100 thousand refugees which are on the territory of Montenegro. The need to provide at least bare necessities for these new inhabitants has put Montenegrin authorities in an almost hopeless situation. Although certain quantities of foreign assistance are arriving, not even that can melt the ice on the heart of military authorities.

Military blockade of Montenegro and its economic exhaustion which have lasted for almost two years continue even in conditions of the strongest temptations for its economy and its citizens. Apparent growth of production in certain branches of the economy, regardless of how encouraging it may seem, in fact is just the result of until recently low production level taken as the starting point Montenegrin economy has been reduced down to at the time of international economic blockade. At the same time, financing of the war which FRY is still waging on its own territory, apart from enormous demolition in Serbia is threatening with future catastrophic inflation.

Therefore, from this aspect, if bombing of NATO has passed by Montenegro and if it avoids civil war within its borders, very difficult days lay ahead of its economy.