By "Nezavisne", Banja Luka, Republic of Srpska, Bosnia-Hercegovina
Officials of Kosovo's government are spending millions of euros on cell phone bills, fuel, dinners and other "irrelevant things", says a confidential report of Kosovo's Ministry of Economy and Finance.
The poor Kosovo has an annual budget less than 700 million euros. In the first 6 months of this year, 8.3 million euros were spent on fuel bills. 2.5 million euros were spent on cell phone bills, and for lunches and dinners, 4.5 million euros.
2 million euros were spent on vehicle maintenance, even though most vehicles of Kosovo's government are new, and have been bought recently, in 2003 and 2004.
Millions of euros went on covering travels and per diem costs of Kosovo's officials.
Analysts say that the officials are spending "far more" than a government with such modest budget can afford, and that "a relatively luxurious lifestyle" is draining away "significant sums of money which could be used to cover priorities, such as economic development".
IMF representative in Kosovo, Marc Auboin, critisized Kosovo officials for high bills and warned that Kosovo's government is in danger of making bigger and bigger deficits.
"I must warn that next year there will be large strains on the budget", he said and added that so far, capital investments have not been the government's priority.
"Foreign countries will not be helping Kosovo much longer if they see the way that the local officials are spending money", he warned.
"The international community has agreed to finance the budget deficit for 2007, but what will happen in the future will depend on the policy of the government", he said amidst growing conflicts within the top levels of power, as warnings and accusations accumulate. The officials blamed their predecessors for creating high costs. The advisor to the prime minister of Kosovo Agim Ceku, Avni Arifi, said that the government is tackling "high costs inherited from the previous government", while the finance minister Haki Shatri denies that officials threw money away on irrelevant things.
"The budget of Kosovo is being used according to plan, and will cover all anticipated costs", he stated.