Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

A Man Of The Future

Economist Mladjan Dinkic has stirred both the Milosevic regime and the Serbian opposition with his calls for immediate and fundamental change.
The morning after the big Belgrade rally may be read by some as just one more of many bids to mobilise the political force needed to remove Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Yet one of the organisers of the rally has distinguished himself as an insightful and principled critic of the situation in Serbia with real prospects, the 35-year-old economist Mladjan Dinkic.

Many people in Serbia blame the opposition political parties for blocking efforts over the past ten years to overthrow Milosevic. And as the rally highlighted, the divisions, disputes and personal rivalries continue.

Yet Dinkic and the G-17 economists' group, of which he is the coordinator, have formulated concrete plans for a transitional government of experts for Serbia to replace Milosevic.

The proposals have won strong support from the general public as well as some key Serbian institutions, notably the Orthodox Church. Echoing the name of the international plan to redevelop the entire Balkan region, they have dubbed their idea the "Pact for Stability for Serbia."

The plan has been criticised by other members of the opposition, including the Serbian Renewal Movement of Vuk Draskovic and the Democratic Party of Zoran Djindjic, for accommodating the regime. Both these parties have argued that the pact requires the agreement of the deputies from the ruling parties, and thus in effect down not seek Milosevic's resignation.

Dinkic dismisses such remarks as cynical posturing. The G-17 group was formed at the end of 1996 to spread a clear economic and political message - namely that that the economic renewal of Serbia is impossible as long as Milosevic and his elite remain in power.

"The aim [of the pact] is that the regime itself announces its own resignation," he explains. But therein lies the crucial feature of the plan: it seeks to offer a way for the regime to depart peacefully in favour of a transitional government-without a huge social upheaval such as some predict this winter.

Dinkic, an assistant lecturer at the faculty of economics at the University of Belgrade, first came to public attention in 1995 with the publication of his popular book 'The People's Big Rip'.

In an understated tone and sometimes even unclear evidence, he nevertheless provocatively explained the genesis of the 1993 hyperinflation caused by the regime in 1993. Both admirers and critics of the book expressed respect for his courage in speaking out so clearly on a critical topic, which many understood but few were willing to discuss openly.

A group of eminent Yugoslav economics professors coalesced around Dinkic and led to the formation of the G-17. The group includes both top analysis and some key reformist figures. Veselin Vukotic, for example, is one of the pioneers of privatisation in Yugoslavia and has also been a leading advisor to President Milo Djukanovic's team in Montenegro.

The G-17 group also gained attention for its publication 'The Final Bill', assessing the economic effects of the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia. In the book experts estimate the total economic damage of the 78 days of the air campaign at 29.6 billion dollars. The assessment has provided cover against any criticisms that the G-17 members are anti-Serbian and prefer the country to suffer if only to frustrate Milosevic.

Yet few of the leading economists in the group of dived headlong into the complications of actual politics as Dinkic with his proposal for a transitional government.

In the unlikely event that Milosevic does intend to relinquish power, some of speculated that a potential candidate is the famous senior figure of Dragoslav Avramovic, the "saviour of the dinar," who stopped the country's crippling mid-90's hyperinflation.

But in looking for a man of the future, who could rise above the petty disputes of the opposition factions and offer concrete ideas and competence, the name of Mladjan Dinkic must also be mentioned.

Dimitrije Boarov is an economist and journalist in Novi Sad who writes for the Belgrade weekly Vreme.