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Tomislav Momirović, Minister Of Construction, Transport And Infrastructure

Builders Beat The Virus

I believe the construction sector will prove decisive in ensuring good GDP results at the end of this year, because it’s working wonderfully even under these conditions. I’m proud of the implementation of current projects, from the Belgrade airport, where VINCI is investing more than 700 million euros in its expansion, to the launch of the mass project to construct and renovate communal infrastructure and the start of construction of the metro rail system.

Im convinced that Serbia will emerge from this crisis stronger and more prepared for all future challenges,” says Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Tomislav Momirović. Work is continuing unabated in the construction sector, despite the pandemic, and there’s no doubt that this sector will represent one of the drivers of GDP growth. In addition to major works that have already started, the launch of construction of the Belgrade metro rail system, which has been the dream of every construction minister for decades, has been announced for the end of 2021.

“The Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure will provide all the essential assistance needed to ensure the unhindered implementation of each segment of the Belgrade Metro, which is one of the most complex infrastructure projects in Serbia and the region,” says Minister Momirović, who expects works to commence towards the end of this year. Until then, plenty of hard work will be underway on many construction sites and, judging by the Minister’s announcements, there will be no idling throughout the remainder of the year.

How’s the situation on the major construction sites in Serbia today, and will the situation be any easier in 2021, considering the prolonged threat of COVID-19?

The situation on the largest infrastructure projects in Serbia, as well as the smaller ones, is more than satisfactory, and I’m very proud of the fact that their implementation has not stopped for a single day, despite great challenges. It is difficult to predict what 2021 will be like, because we have yet to declare a final victory against the virus, but I’m sure of one thing – works will not be interrupted, because we promised that to the citizens of Serbia and because we must create a more beautiful and modern state.

According to the analysis of your Ministry, how has the construction sector traversed the crisis to date, when it comes to the implementation of works and the number of employed people?

The implementation of works is at a very high level, as are plans for some new projects. Construction in Serbia is experiencing a boom and I don’t think anyone’s currently unemployed in that sector. From engineers to tilers, you’ll struggle to find a person linked to construction in Serbia who’s currently without a job. We haven’t recorded departures of foreign investors, the entire sector is very optimistic and, with the launch of massive infrastructure projects, I think the construction sector will prove decisive in ensuring good GDP results at the end of this year.

The Belgrade metro is a dream that has been dreamt for generations. We have an incredible honour, but also the responsibility to start works during our mandate, and I’m sure that everyone – from the City of Belgrade, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure – will give their all during implementation

Which of the government’s measures from the assistance packages to date have been the most important for the departments that you head?

Alongside the two assistance packages for citizens and enterprises last year, the Government of Serbia has decided, due to the continuation of the crisis caused by the pandemic, to distribute a new assistance package this year. The new package of measures includes, among other things, the payment of three times half the minimum salary for micro, small, medium-sized and large enterprises. In the transport department, we have earmarked 600 euros of assistance per bus for the bus/coach transport sector. Generally speaking, the construction department is working wonderfully even under these conditions and I’m proud of the implementation of projects, from the project to expand the Belgrade airport, where VINCI is investing more than 700 million euros, to the launch of the mass project to construct and renovate communal infrastructure.

If we were to compile a calendar of the most important objectives when it comes to the building of road corridors, what would it look like?

The priorities for this year are more than clear: completion of the high-speed railway to Novi Sad, the largest part of the Belgrade Bypass and the highway to Požega. Alongside these three projects, we have clearly charted objectives for each of the large projects and are in constant control and communication with contractors, supervisors, local governments, to ensure there are no delays.

We’ve heard that there’s hope that the railway to Novi Sad will be completed by the end of 2021. What about the rest of this section in Serbia? How are plans on the Hungarian side?

Implementation of the other part of the high-speed railway project, from Novi Sad to Subotica, will be launched next year. Our Chinese partners have given us assurances and I’m convinced, on the basis of our positive experiences to date, that they will complete the work within the deadlines set. When it comes to our Hungarian partners, the Chinese Eximbank has signed an agreement regarding the financing of their share, and there are thus no financial obstacles to investment and the project’s realisation.

How has COVID-19 impacted on revenues from road, rail and water transport? What measures are available for the ministry to respond in each of these cases?

This crisis caused by the pandemic has hit the whole world and the transport sector is experiencing a major crisis lobally. The state has set aside for all companies in Serbia, as well as for citizens, financial assistance the likes of which even developed European countries weren’t able to provide for their companies. We are carefully monitoring the development of the crisis, the situation with vaccination and global movements of capital, and I’m convinced Serbia will emerge from this crisis stronger and more prepared for all future challenges.

It is difficult to predict what 2021 will be like, because we have yet to declare a final victory against the virus, but I’m sure of one thing – works will not be interrupted, because we promised that to the citizens of Serbia and because we must create a more beautiful and modern state

The developed countries of Western Europe are increasingly deciding to up the prices of road tolls for vehicles that emit more exhaust fumes. Is your Ministry considering such a measure?

The price of road tolls in Serbia is determined on the basis of the amount of kilometres travelled and that will remain the case. I’m clear on the “ecological” side of this issue and I believe we all want Serbia to be cleaner, but economic conditions, the level of social development and the state of the economy don’t allow the introduction of similar measures for the time being.

The construction of office space was in full swing in the previous period. What is the situation like in this sector now, and what does that indicate when it comes to foreign investments in this area?

Serbia is a country of cranes, and the upward trend has continued when it comes to the construction of residential and business space. We have witnessed that foreign investors haven’t withdrawn, but rather have continued their operations, believing in the future of the Serbian market and its capacities.

One major job that has yet to be developed is the construction of a metro rail system in Belgrade. What is it realistic to expect on this front in 2021?

We have an incredible honour, but also the responsibility to start works during our mandate, and I’m sure that everyone – from the City of Belgrade, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure – will give their all during implementation. The Belgrade metro is a dream that has been dreamt for generations. The Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure will provide all the essential assistance needed to ensure the unhindered implementation of each segment of the Belgrade Metro, which is one of the most complex infrastructure projects in Serbia and the region. Construction will commence at the end of this year on Makiško polje, or in November, and we’ll start constructing the first line very soon after that, and after that, in 2022, we’ll start constructing the second line.

PRIORITIES

The priorities for this year are the completion of the high-speed railway to Novi Sad, the largest part of the Belgrade Bypass and the highway to Požega

PROGRESS

Serbia is a country of cranes, and the upward trend has continued when it comes to the construction of residential and business space

EMPLOYMENT

From engineers to tilers, you’ll struggle to find a person linked to construction in Serbia who’s currently without a job

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