Waiting for New Workplaces, Waiting for Political Willingness and Better Budget

Author: Rusmir Pobri?

The greatest problem in BiH is unemployment. It is no news for anyone, but it is necessary to be repeated for several reasons. One of them is that, regardless of being “old news”, adequate reactions of the responsible institutions that would bring a visible benefit to the citizens have not been presented yet. The second reason is the fact that for the first time we have official choices of the new entity government, stated in the prime ministers’ commentaries, that the political priority of the mandate will be economy – but also the practice that the previous BiH governments used to shift their priorities precariously, in accordance with the daily political needs and budget gaps.

The official statistics confirms the problem. According to the data of the Federal Employment Institute, in December 2002, the number of the unemployed in FBiH was 277,281 and the number of the employed was 404,690. In January 2015, the number of the unemployed in FBiH was 395,133 while the number of the employed was 445,788. The difference between the number of the employed and the unemployed in 2002 was 127,409 and today it is 50,655. The ratio between the employed and the retired is currently 1.14/1.

However, instead of using the statistics, particularly the official type, as a warning and direction for a more efficient action in the BiH public political communication, the statistics is often relativised and denied. So, lately, one can often hear that the official statistics does not reflect the actual number of the unemployed, or that over 100,000 workers in FBiH are employed on the black market. It is highly likely that the estimates are fairly accurate, but, on the other hand, we would have to consider and take into consideration all the employees working for a minimal wage that cannot cover their consumer price index, and especially those who are employed but receive no wages – their numbers might be even greater than those of illegal workers, and they can hardly be considered properly employed.

The lack of workplaces, or the lack of jobs, was identified as the main issue in the employment sector. Recently it was stated by the Association of the Unemployed in BiH that, as long as there is no convenient surrounding for new workplaces, the unemployed do not stand a chance. What does the term “convenient surrounding” refer to? The forementioned commentaries of the entity prime ministers contain fairly detailed responses to the question of “convenient surrounding”. As a recent example, the commentary of the new Prime Minister of FBiH Fadil Novali? is a novelty in the political retorics in BiH. His address was not general, was based on numbers, exact indicators, official reports and it opened great economic and political topics and announced serious interventions.

I will briefly reflect on some of the significant points of the commentary. The new Prime Minister raised the issue of vast public spending and the neccesity of passing a moratorium on all employment in the public sector. He also mentioned modifying the educational system for the requirements of the labor market. He also spoke of a more responsible spending of public assets and a more realistic budget planning. By decreasing the pressure from the labor, he anticipated the decrease of the informal economic sector, clarifying in particular the mitigating measures for those employed for the first time. When it comes to VAT, and other taxes, he reflected on the need for a better method of charging for the public income. He mentioned the active role of the employment bureau, clearing the unemployment records, co-financing employment and self-employment, training and actively searching for employment, cancelling parafiscal levies, speeding up the procedure of registering companies, introducing the youth with the economy and the problem of insolvency of BiH companies. He spoke about managing concessions, forests and potential of the wood processing industry, public and private partnerships, agriculture, domestic products, tourism, sector for small and medium enterpreneurship, and the lack of favourable credit assets, fighting corruption and a more just distribution od the social fundings.

Therefore, the new Prime Minister explained in the language of the just what is recquired for a “convenient business surrounding” that is necessary for creating new workplaces. Finally, he did declare that we have to be patient. The improvement of the neglected “BiH business site” through all these necessary measures must be very time-consuming. However, the crisis is not only economic, but also spiritual – there is a general apathy involved; the youth, the very best, who are competitive on the world labor market, are leaving their homeland, which is an irrecupable loss. And managing crisis, as the economic experts explain it, demands, in its first stage, compulsive measures and quick benefits nad results, before the system reforms and stabilisation, returning normal and preventing a new crisis. The quick measures are necessary to reduce the hopelessness and retrieve the trust of the youth in the governmental institutions and in a better tomorrow.

Should we expect rapid measures? Unfortunately, the adopted FBiH Budget for 2015 – partly accepting the fact that it is “inherited” – is no promise of a reform. The assets from the Federal Ministry of Development, Enterpreneurship and Crafts for “subventions to private companies and enterpreneurs” were reduced from 4,291,000 to 3,700,000 and the amount of money – that has been reducing for years and should be increasing by law – through an appropriate programming approach, should be crucial for developing private enterpreneurship in BiH. According to certain analysis, 10 times more is allocated from the budget for the public than for the private companies. Significant assets will be allocated for agriculture during this year, as was the case in the previous years, but it is obvious, considering the poor condition in the agricultural sector, as is stated in the Strategy of Development the FBiH, that a better managing is necessary. The pre-elective and the post-elective optimistic announcements of VAT alleviations (VAT per charge and the extension of deadline for paying), are seemingly no longer an issue! On the contrary, there seems to be a greater number of those who advocate the increase of VAT, without providing detailed analysis and risk estimates of how much it would aggravate the weak purchasing power of the end consumer, of a common person, but also of the economic subjects.

Finally, it could be said that now we have good announcements and precise and measurable promises of the new government. The first indicators, from the unfavorable budget prognosis for the enterpreneurship to the changes of retorics in the key issues, such as the VAT reform, are not optimistic. However, this is just the beginning, and perhaps a new budget amending by this summer, or the first law that decreases the pressure from the small businessman and the newly employed, will prove that the politics can be different, can stand on the side of the unemployed and be of service to those in the economy.

The text was published in Dnevni Avaz on 6 April 2015.


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