* Delays in the arrival of vaccines can harm Bosnia-IMF growth officer
* The economy grew 3.5% this year, after falling 5.5% in 2020
* Talks about a new loan deal will require IMF-compromises
SARAJEVO, March 8 (Reuters) – Delays in the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines could hinder the recovery of the Bosnian economy, which was expected to grow 3.5% this year after falling 5.5% in the 2020, an IMF official said Monday.
Ethnically divided Bosnia launched only partial vaccinations last month after the Autonomous Republic of Serbia received its first batch of 5,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines and health workers were asked to be inoculated in neighboring Serbia.
Bosnia’s other region, the federation dominated by Bosniaks and Croats, expects to secure its share of 2.1 million state-ordered strikes under the COVAX program for poor countries and the European Union, but they have yet to get.
“We assume for now that the vaccines will be widely available in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the second half of the year,” Andrew Jewell, IMF resident representative in Bosnia, told Reuters.
“We are now in March and the vaccines are a long way from being widely available, and at the same time we are seeing new strains of the virus and we are seeing more cases.”
Jewell said the worsening of the pandemic and the lack of vaccines could cause the lender to reduce its growth forecast.
Jewell said there is “enormous uncertainty surrounding growth forecasts,” but added: “If everyone is vaccinated, much of that uncertainty is eliminated.” He said the IMF sees Bosnia’s economy reaching pre-crisis level in 2022.
The lender’s talks with Bosnia on a new € 750 million ($ 890 million) loan, which its two regional governments badly needed, were put on hold in December due to a lack of agreement on some reforms.
While both regions disagreed with some conditions required by the IMF under the program, the Serbian Republic firmly rejected some reforms saying they were political.
“I suspect we will start talking again, but for the negotiations to be successful, a compromise will be needed,” said Jewell.
$ 1 = 0,8426 euro Reportage by Daria Sito-Sucic; Edited by Nick Macfie