BELGRADE: It is widely believed that if only Slobodan Milosevic were removed from power, Serbia would be set on a path of renewal. But reality here is more complex and more troubling. If Serbia is to avoid a humanitarian disaster this winter, all of its politicians must put ambition aside so that the country can begin to rebuild.
Even before the disaster of Kosovo, Serbia was an economic basket case. Key economic reforms that transformed much of postcommunist Europe -- macro-economic stabilization, freeing prices and foreign trade, privatization -- were scorned in order to sustain an authoritarian regime. Instead of integrating Serbia into the international community and stopping the rot in the country's living standards, the regime opted to cow its people into submission through high inflation, a brutal black market economy, and tolerance of massive corruption.