Croatian Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Saturday that a Croatian delegation held talks in Washington with representatives of international financial institutions, including on the financial and business restructuring of the HAC motorway operator, and announced that Croatia could borrow on the foreign financial market during this quarter and that he planned to intensify the activities of his ministry's tax fraud office.

The Croatian delegation, consisting of representatives of the Finance Ministry and the central bank, is attending the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington on April 15-17.

Maric said the talks with IMF and WB representatives were constructive, focusing on structural reforms and the government's work programme.

"We have their positive reactions, full support and cooperation. But, like the domestic public, they urge us to a quicker and more efficient implementation of all reforms, including those regarding the political economy, by improving and advancing the decision making process at the level of ruling and political structures, making it quicker and more efficient," he told Hina in Washington.

On Friday, we had meetings with World Bank transport experts on HAC's business restructuring, they understand and support us, but we need more time to see which direction to take, Maric said, adding that the talks also addressed HAC's financial restructuring but that no specific amounts had been agreed.

This year alone HAC has to repay EUR 466 million in loans, so the company's biggest challenge is refinancing and restructuring.

Maric went on to say that lenders were interested in the government's economic policy. In this year's budget, the government plans to borrow one billion euros, including abroad.

"We have still not decided on which market to borrow and in which currency. However, we are actively following the situation on the financial markets, which is relatively good," he said, adding that depending on developments the plan was to "do something" during the second quarter.

Maric went on to say that, contrary to speculation that the Finance Ministry's tax fraud office will be closed, he wanted the office to step up its activities. He said his goal and task was that all ministry services, not just the tax fraud office, but the tax and customs authorities, the financial inspectorate and the money laundering prevention office, did their job. "I have full confidence in them and want their activities to be taken to a higher level."

Maric said his idea about a new organisation of the ministry was intended to make it as efficient as possible and avoid parallel management.

He said that in two weeks the government would discuss a national reform programme and convergence programme which Croatia must send to Brussels for evaluation by the end of the month. "Those two documents will contain... reforms of public administration, health care, the pension system, social welfare, public finance management, the education system, the management of public companies, of state property... Those reforms will be an integral part of those strategic documents."

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