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Kosovo seeks talks with IMF on new stand-by deal

Source: Reuters - Fri, 17 Jan 2014 11:45 AM
Author: Reuters
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* New deal may be around 100 mln euros, Kosovo official says

* Government does not need to draw funds

* Kosovo GDP expected to grow 4 pct this year

By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Kosovo has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for talks on a new precautionary programme, but is unlikely to need to draw any funds, the Fund's Kosovo mission chief said on Friday.

A previous 30-month stand-by deal - Kosovo's first since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008 - came to an end last month. It was worth 107 million euros ($146 million).

"We take the government request very seriously, we will give it the utmost consideration and we are thinking of a formal programme negotiating mission in March," Jacques Alain Miniane, the newly appointed IMF chief mission for Kosovo, told a news conference.

"The government has signalled the intention for the programme to be precautionary. At this stage there are no financing needs, no budgetary or external needs that the government or the state cannot fund on its own," he said.

Miniane did not say how much the new deal could be worth but a Kosovo official told Reuters it may be around 100 million euros.

Six years after gaining independence, the land-locked country of 1.7 million people remains one of the poorest in Europe. New government data shows that more than 35 percent of the population is unemployed.

Foreign investors are often put off by its reputation for organised crime and corruption and simmering tensions between the Albanian majority and the Serb minority.

The sale of the national state telecom company collapsed for the second time last month, after disputes within the ruling coalition.

However, the government this week picked an international bidder, U.S.-Turkish consortium Bechtel-Enka, to build its second highway worth 600 million euros that will connect it with neighbouring Macedonia.

Kosovo's economy grew 2.5 percent in 2013 and is expected to grow four percent in 2014, based mainly on increased remittances and foreign aid. Up to 800,000 Kosovars live and work in Western European countries, mainly Germany and Switzerland.

($1 = 0.7352 euros) (Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Ruth Pitchford)

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