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Serbia’s capital, Belgrade redevelops waterfront with $4 bn investment

Serbia unveiled plans on Friday to redevelop the Belgrade waterfront, aiming to turn the capital into a tourism and business hub, in a controversial 3 billion euros ($4.08bn) investment plan funded by Gulf Arab cash.

The Belgrade Waterfront project promises office and luxury apartment blocks, eight hotels, a shopping mall and a tower resembling Dubai’s landmark Burj Khalifa, albeit a quarter of the size at 200 metres, on the right bank of the Sava River.

The project is to be co-financed and led by Dubai-based construction company Eagle Hills, although Eagle Hills and the Serbian government have yet to form a joint venture and define a co-financing model. Eagle Hills has agreed to put up the €3bn ($4.08bn) cost of the scheme but the terms have not been settled and it is unclear how much the Serbia government will contribute in funds.

Last year, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Etihad Airways bought a minority stake and gained managerial rights in troubled Serbian flag carrier JAT Airways which was re-branded as Air Serbia.

Critics have pointed to the absence of public tenders for the project. Others question the economic wisdom and viability of the project in a country under pressure to cap its deficit and public debt, which stand at 7 percent and 63 percent of gross domestic product respectively. On top of building costs, the government will also have to compensate residents who will be relocated.

With unemployment running at 20 percent and the average net wage in Serbia just €380 a month, the project appears unnecessarily lavish to many members of the public, who say the government should be building roads and hospitals instead.

Belgrade (Serbia) Waterfront project

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