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News 23 Apr 13

Macedonia Sets Skopje Revamp Cost at €208m

The government-funded revamp of the Macedonian capital, Skopje 2014, has so far cost some €208 million, the government has said in a first-ever report on the cost of the project.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: MIA

Macedonian Culture Minister Elizabeta Kanceska-Milevska has admitted that the cost of Skopje 2014 - the project that aims to give the neglected capital a more monumental appearance - has far exceeded an initial pricetag of €80 million.

“This cumulative cost of €208 million is due to upgrading and expanding the original visualization,” Milevska said.

She strongly denied unofficial estimates by critics that the total cost of the project may reach €500 million or €1 billion.

“Those speculations are not relevant because we have the precise numbers here, supported by the awarded contracts,” Milevska said.

Drawing inspiration from the architectural styles of classical antiquity, the project has seen the erection of some 30 tall bronze and marble statues so far, with more on the way.

The project also envisages the construction of some 20 other buildings, including museums, theatres, concert halls, hotels and administrative offices whose construction in most cases is finished or underway.

Since it was unveiled, the project has attracted much criticism about the selected artistic styles, the cost of the work and the transparency of the contracts given to the architects and designers.

Vladimir Todorovic, the outgoing mayor of Skopje’s municipality of Centar, which is the home of the project, as well as the head of the Government Public Procurements Bureau Vase Donevski, were also present at the press conference.

According to the report, the three institutions, the ministry, the municipality and the procurement bureau, had an almost equal share in spending government money for the project. Each spent about €70 million.

While critics who say a poor country should not be wasting money on beautification of the city, officials insist the project has economic benefits, boosting tourism and the construction industry.

“We have been transparent about the project all along… All of the contracts have been made public. However, they may have been scattered throughout different institutions,” Todorovic said, adding that he is not afraid of the announced revision of his work by his successor as mayor.

Some have linked the timing of the press conference and the report to the shift in power in Centar municipality where Todorovic lost the local election to from an opponent from the opposition bloc, Andrej Zernovski.

The new mayor, Zernovski, a stark critic of the project, has accused his opponent of possible money-laundering and has pledged an investigation into how the money for the project has been spent.

According to the report, the most expensive building so far has been the Macedonian National Theatre, designed to resemble the building that vanished in the 1963 Skopje quake.

Although the original contract for the building was some €4 million, some €37 million went on a luxurious facade and interior through subsequent annex agreements with firms.

The most expensive monument, costing €10.5 million, was the giant equestrian statue of Alexander the Great, which many see as the focal point of the project.

See related gallery: Skopje 2014: The new face of Macedonia, updated

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