Montenegro has no plan to sell state property to ease debt

Montenegro has denied it has plans to sell state property to ease its debt burden, a local newspaper said on Sunday, after a Reuters report quoted senior officials as saying the tiny Balkan country was preparing the way for asset sales.

The Reuters report on Friday also quoted a senior European Union official as saying Montenegro was looking to raise cheap EU credit in a plan – to be spearheaded by state lenders from France, Germany and Italy – to reduce its financial reliance on Chinese debt.

In 2014, Montenegro, with a population of 628,000 people, borrowed $944 million from China to fund a stretch of a highway to the border with its neighbour Serbia.

The loan sent total government debt skyrocketing and it now equals 103% of economic output.

The Dan daily newspaper, quoting an unnamed finance ministry official, said on Sunday there are no plans for selling state property for the repayment of the Chinese debt, “nor is there any need for that.”

“This government has ensured that Montenegro has the money to finance all obligations, including those to Chinese creditors,” Dan quoted the official as saying.

“We are open for cooperation with our European partners, to reach the most favorable … conditions for financing of strategic projects … such as the highway,” the official added, according to the article.

Finance Minister Milojko Spajic told Reuters in a recent interview that the government wants to make a strategic review of assets, that could ultimately lead to regular sales. He also stressed that Montenegro’s state finances were stable.