International
support

In more than 90 countries

Economic Overview

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

The economy of Serbia experienced rapid growth in 2001–2008, although the global financial crisis hit hard on the country’s economy, showing its structural weaknesses and the need for a full transition to a market economy. Despite turning into negative territory in 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, Serbia’s GDP returned to growth in 2021: mainly driven by private consumption and investment, the economy grew an estimated 6.5% (IMF). After exceeding its pre-pandemic output level in 2021, GDP is expected to return to its pre-crisis rate of expansion of around 4.5% in 2022 and 2023, although headwind risks to the forecast persist (including new waves of contagion, supply-side bottleneck and rising inflation).

The robust package of economic measures taken by the authorities to alleviate the negative effects of the pandemic temporarily pushed up public debt, but it ill remained among the lowest in Europe. In 2021, the debt-to-GDP ratio was estimated at 59.9% (from a level of 52.8% before the crisis); although it is expected to follow a downward trend this year and the next (at 58.2% and 55.5%, respectively). The government balance was negative by 7.2% in 2021, despite the phasing out of most crisis support measures, partially counterbalanced by a substantial new package of support adopted in April, which included wage subsidies to all enterprises, one-off payments to citizens and specific support to the most affected sectors. The IMF sees the deficit gradually decreasing to 3.5% of GDP in 2022 and 1.6% the following year. Inflation accelerated strongly in 2021, mostly reflecting the sharp rebound of oil and food prices, reaching 3%. It is expected to decelerate marginally (to 2.7% this year and 2.5% in 2023 – IMF).  Meanwhile, negotiations for the EU membership continue: in 2021, Serbia has met the criteria to open two new sets of chapters in the EU accession talks (including the Green Agenda and sustainable connectivity), although the normalisation of relations with Kosovo is slow and those with Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are complicated. The main challenges that Serbia faces are: stagnant household incomes, a need for private-sector job creation and structural reform of public enterprises as well as strategic reforms in the public sector. An ineffective judicial system, a high level of corruption and an ageing population represent other challenges that the country will have to face in the long term.

Serbia's unemployment rate, relatively low compared to its neighbours in the Balkans, remains significantly higher than the European average. Despite the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment decreased to 9.3% in 2021, mostly as a consequence of falling labour market participation. The rate is expected to remain stable in 202 before slightly decreasing to 9% in 2022 (IMF). The standard of living of the Serbian population remains significantly below the EU average and the country's informal sector is substantial. However, the authorities have the support of the EU and international financial institutions to modernise infrastructure and support investment in the business community. Eurostat estimates that the number of people at risk of poverty has fallen further to 29.8% in 2020 (was 39.5% five years ago).

 
Main Indicators 201920202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 51.48e52.9660.6765.7071.33
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 4.2-1.06.54.54.5
GDP per Capita (USD) 7,392e7,646e8,7949,56110,422
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -0.5-5.9e-7.2-3.5-1.6
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 52.858.459.958.255.5
Inflation Rate (%) 1.91.6e3.02.72.5
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 10.99.5e9.39.39.0
Current Account (billions USD) -3.54-2.26-2.48-2.89-3.28
Current Account (in % of GDP) -6.9-4.3-4.1-4.4-4.6

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , October 2021

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by La Coface.

 

+

Main Sectors of Industry

Serbia has a workforce of 3.16 million out of its 6.9 million population. The agricultural sector accounts for 6.5% of the country's GDP (its share has been decreasing in the past years), employing nearly 15.6% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). Serbia has 3.4 million hectares of agricultural land. Continental climate with cold winters and hot humid summers is ideal for intensive fruit production. Fruit production consists mainly of apples, grapes, plums, peaches, pears and berries. Recently Serbia has been widely using fruit processing to obtain products like brandies, jams, juices, compotes. The main crops are maize and wheat, together with barley, oat and rye.

Serbia has significant quantities of coal, lead, zinc, copper and gold, but the lack of investment, which has affected the mining sector for several years, prevents the country's economy from benefiting from this wealth. The industrial sector is likewise in need of modernisation and foreign investment. It contributes 24.8% to the country's GDP and employs 27.4% of the workforce. The country’s main industries include automotive, food processing, chemicals, base metals, furniture, pharmaceuticals, machinery, sugar, tires and clothing. The manufacturing sector is estimated to account for 13.2% of GDP. According to the national statistical institute, Serbia's industrial production increased by 6.3% year-on-year in 2021.

Services make up the main sector of activity and accounts for 51.5% of Serbia's GDP, employing 57% of the workforce. The IT industry is one of the fastest-growing, same as for the tourist sector which represented 6.9% of GDP before the pandemic. However, following the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, the Serbian tourism sector recorded only 871,239 foreign tourists in 2021: although it marks an increase of 95% compared to the previous year, this figure is still half of the ones recorded before the pandemic (Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia). Concerning the banking sector, foreign banks account for 86% of the market, while state-owned banks and domestic private banks account for 7% each (EBF).

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 15.6 27.4 57.0
Value Added (in % of GDP) 6.5 24.8 51.5
Value Added (Annual % Change) 4.2 -0.8 -1.8

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Serbian Dinar (RSD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 111.28107.76100.18105.20103.16

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

+

Foreign Trade

Serbia is gradually becoming more open to international trade, which represents 104.9% of GDP (World Bank, latest data available). The Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Serbia and the steady growth of foreign direct investment inflows have led to a constant increase in the volume of foreign trade. Serbia's negotiations with the WTO are in an advanced state. The country’s main exports are insulated electric conductors (7.2%), tyres (3.5%), maize and corn (3.4%), and electric motors and generators (2.5%); whereas imports are led by medicaments (4.1%), petroleum oils (3.2%), petroleum gases (1.9%), telephones, and motor vehicles (1.8% each).

The country's main customers are Germany (12.9%), Italy (8.4%), Bosnia-Herzegovina (7.1%), and Romania (6.5%). Its main suppliers are Germany (13.6%), China (12.5%), Italy (8.4%) and Russia (6%). Serbia is the largest Western Balkan trade partner of the European Union.

Serbia has a structural trade deficit that amounted to 8.3% of GDP in 2020, according to the World Bank. A large portion of the deficit is due to investment-related imports. Exports of merchandise were stable at USD 19.5 billion in 2020, the same as for imports which stood at USD 26.2 billion. In the same year, Serbia exported USD 7 billion worth of services, importing USD 5.7 billion. According to figures from the Serbian statistical office, in 2021 the country's exports grew by 31% to USD 25.563 billion, while imports went up by 29% to USD 33.797 billion. As a result, Serbia's foreign trade deficit went up 18% on the year to USD 8.233 billion in 2021.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 19,23021,94725,88226,73026,233
Exports of Goods (million USD) 14,85216,99619,22719,63019,498
Imports of Services (million USD) 4,0824,7995,9096,5695,758
Exports of Services (million USD) 5,0665,9407,1267,7457,042

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 101.9107.5109.5112.1104.9
Trade Balance (million USD) -3,450-4,533-5,983-6,289-5,967
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -2,447-3,435-4,813-5,159-4,734
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 7.011.110.810.7-3.5
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 12.08.27.57.7-5.9
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 53.357.159.161.056.9
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 48.550.550.451.048.0

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 19.36.75.95.95.9
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 15.17.06.25.86.1

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
In international trade, Serbia shows a preference for relations with the EU and the United States. Nevertheless, the Serbian government also wants to develop privileged relations with its neighbors as proved by the bilateral treaties signed with Bulgaria and Romania. A free trade agreement has been signed as well with Belarus (2009) and Russia(2001).
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
Germany 12.9%
Italy 8.4%
Bosnia and Herzegovina 7.1%
Romania 6.5%
Hungary 4.7%
See More Countries 60.4%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
Germany 13.6%
China 12.5%
Italy 8.4%
Russia 6.0%
Hungary 5.0%
See More Countries 54.5%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 

+

Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Aleksandar VUCIC (since 31 May 2017)
Prime Minister: Ana BRNABIC (since 29 June 2017)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: April 2022
National Assembly: April 2022
Main Political Parties
Serbia has a multi-party system. The main parties include:

- Serbian Progressive Party (SNS): centre-right, right-wing populist, led by Aleksandar Vucic
- Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS): left-wing, nationalist, populist, led by Ivica Dacic
- Social Democratic Party of Serbia (SDP): social democracy, populism
- Party of United Pensioners of Serbia (PUPS): centre left, pensioners' interests, led by Milan Krkobabić
- Serbian Radical Party (SRS): right-populist, Serbian nationalist
- United Serbia (JS): conservatist, populism
- Democratic Party (DS): centre, social liberalism, pro-Europe
- Party of Modern Serbia (SMS): Liberalism, Social Democracy
- Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (VMSZ): represents the Hungarian minority in Serbia

Executive Power
Executive power is held by the Prime Minister and the cabinet (Council of Ministers). The Prime Minister and the members of the government are elected by the National Assembly. The President of the Republic has little executive power and is primarily a ceremonial position. The President is elected for a 5-year term by direct universal suffrage and can be elected twice. He has exceptional powers in case of a state of emergency and can dissolve the National Assembly.
Legislative Power
Legislative power is held by the unicameral parliament, known as the National Assembly, which consists of 250 deputies elected for a 4-year term by direct universal suffrage. Its decisions are taken by a majority vote of members at the session at which a majority of deputies are present. In the case of amendments to the Constitution, a two-thirds majority is needed.
 

+

COVID-19 Country Response

COVID-19 epidemic evolution

To find out about the latest status of the COVID-19 pandemic evolution and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID-19 disease in Serbia, please visit official governmental portal covid19.rs with the official data. For the reports from the Serbian Institute of Public Health, click here.
For the international outlook you can consult the latest
situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.

Sanitary measures

To find out about the latest public health situation in Serbia and the current sanitary measures in vigour, please consult the list of the decisions taken by the national government (in Serbian). Updates on the containment measures can be retrieved on the official governmental website.

Travel restrictions

The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

Import & export restrictions

Serbia introduced an export ban on medicaments, as well as a ban for certain basic life products (wheat flour, sugar, oil, hygiene products, etc.).
For the information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including eventual restrictions on imports and exports, if applicable), please consult the portal of the Serbian Customs Authority.
For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Serbia on the
International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.

Economic recovery plan

To know about the economic measures taken by the Serbian government to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national economy, please visit the dedicated page on the website of the Ministry of Economy (in Serbian). The National Bank of Serbia introduced a 3-months moratorium on all repayments under bank loans and financial leasing agreements. An overview of the measures is available on the guide by Deloitte and on the website of AmCham Serbia.

For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Serbian government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Serbia in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.

Support plan for businesses

For the information on the local business support scheme and taxation measures established by the Serbian government to help businesses to deal with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic on their activity, please consult the website of the Ministry of Economy (in Serbian) and the dedicated page on the portal of the Serbian Development Agency (in Serbian). The instructions on the implementation of the regulation on fiscal benefits and direct benefits to private sector companies is available here (in Serbian). For details in English refer to the website of Wolf Theiss.
For a general overview of international SME support policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

Support plan for exporters

The Export Insurance and Financing Agency (AOFI) granted a moratorium on all claims in order to overcome the negative effects on Serbia's export-oriented businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

+