Belgrade totals up cost of bombing

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The Independent Online
WITH NO end in sight to Nato's air campaign against Yugoslavia, Serb economists say the war has inflicted up to $200bn (pounds 125bn) of damage on the Balkan state, 12 times greater than Yugoslavia's annual gross domestic product and more even than the country suffered in the Second World War.

The figures are approximate and do not always tally, as some include Kosovo while others do not.

The former Deputy Prime Minister, Vuk Draskovic, put direct economic damage at about $40bn after a month of bombing. He told a local television station: "Even if we had the cash now and the bombing stopped, we would need five years to rebuild everything that has been destroyed. The destruction of one month's bombing has been greater than that inflicted throughout the Second World War in Serbia."

But the Yugoslav foreign minister said the destruction totalled $100bn by 18 April. That would suggest much more than $200bn of damage after 54 days of bombing, during which the attacks have increased.

Damage in the first month of the bombing included 13 major bridges, 12 railway stations, 40 industrial companies and six motorways. Almost two months into the Nato campaign, the government says that 50 bridges and five airports have been destroyed, while all forms of communication - roads, railways and river crossings - have been severed.

Some 100 business and residential buildings have been devastated, and reserves of oil and oil derivatives have been wiped out.

The cost of the damage inflicted on Kosovo is unknown but must be immense, as it has not been spared a single night of bombing. Pristina airport and post office have been attacked on several occasions, as has the iron- nickel complex in Glogovac, in which close to $1bn had been invested.

Serbia's first war-time economic and social programme, adopted last week, offers to ensure the payment of reduced salaries for 60,000 workers who have been in effect left jobless because of the destruction of their factories.

But Tomislav Banovic, chairman of the Alliance of Independent Unions, says more than 100,000 people can no longer earn their living.

Miodrag Janic, of the Commission for Assessing War Damage, reported at the end of April that $15-$20bn of damage had been inflicted on the Serbian capital - all this before more destruction at the beginning of May.

In addition to the Jugostroj, Rekord and Grmec factories, many public buildings in the city have been destroyed, including the headquarters of Radio- Television Serbia with its landmark 200m broadcasting tower.

The cost of rebuilding the burnt-out Usce business complex, which had 20,000 square metres of usable surface and used to house the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, is estimated at close to $50m.

Mr Janjic included the value of destroyed buildings of the federal and the Serbian Ministries of the Interior, the air force building in Zemun, and the airports in Batajnica and Surcin. In the wake of May's bombing, the list ought now to include one of Slobodan Milosevic's official palaces, the headquarters of the chief-of-staff, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese embassy, the Yugoslavia Hotel, municipal police stations, and much more.

The head of Serbia's northern Vojvodina province, Bosko Perosevic, estimates that destruction in his province amounts to six billion German marks (pounds 2bn). He included the seven bridges across the Danube, Sombor airport, oil refineries in Novi Sad and Pancevo, Pancevo's petro-chemical complex, nitrogen fertiliser and aircraft factories, and a dozen public buildings.

But Mr Perosevic's assessment may be on the low side: civil engineers say that DM2bn will be required simply to reconstruct the seven bridges across the Danube.

Dimitrije Boarov is a correspondent for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.