Jahorina Economic Forum
By: Sead OMERAGIC
Last month saw one economic event and two investment conferences. The economic fair in Mostar and investment conferences in Sarajevo and on Jahorina Mountain.
The Mostar fair turned into a political gathering with Serbian and Croatian leaders, and political leaders of Bosnian Serbs and Croats. The Bosniak member of BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, did not attend. Statements were paved with political tantrums, so supposedly economic fair revealed its political background.
Izetbegovic came to Sarajevo Business Forum held on 25 and 26 April, however, the representatives of the other two BH nations, at least not the high ranked ones. The conference in Jahorina was opened by Dragan Covic with Milorad Dodik in the audience.
The line of political division is evident. What kind of investments our leaders are talking about when it is obvious they are not able even to act in unison in the field of economy. Investments require large markets. BiH market is divided into three parts. Even the Western Balkans market is a tiny space of some 15 million citizens. Every year that space is deserted by more than 300,000 young and highly educated people, which puts limitations on planning for the future.
Anywhere else in the world, the politics is in service of economy, it is only in BiH that the economy is in absolute service of politics. We can see proof of it in the immense financial prosperity of the local national leaders, the fact that their family members, friends and party officials all enjoy employment with public companies or state institutions.
BiH has not secured even the basic conditions for investing. It still takes 3 to 6 months for company registration in BiH.
Political leaders keep talking about the need to stop the youth from leaving the countries of the Western Balkans. Those who have created states for themselves and their party comrades, sent their own children out of BiH. New generation has begun to follow in their footsteps but 20 years later they would like to keep that youth in BiH.
We have never had an opportunity to hear about the outcome of these expensive and shallow investment conferences. Where are those massive investments they have been negotiating over the past two decades? Results of direct investments should be published already.
All this time, the national leaders have been presenting international loans as investments, which is absurd. Let's just remember their 'pain' and 'struggle' and 'invested effort' to get loans from IMF, the World Bank or EBRD, followed by theatrical triumph in front of crazed rather than naive citizens.
Unfortunately, this country as well as the entire region have not reached even a bare minimum of direct foreign investment. Serbia attracts foreign investors with state subsidy of workplace of 5 – 10,000 EUR, as well as wide range of long-term benefits for investors. In addition, they openly offer labor as cheap as slave communities in the underdeveloped countries of Africa and Asia.
Later this year, there should be an investment conference for BiH taking place in Tokyo – the gathering that should produce something more concrete and serious. Japan has been the biggest donor to BiH so it is realistic to expect the Japanese to organize the first real investment conference for this country. BH leaders should finally realize how far the world has progressed while they are still stuck in nationalism and retrograde economic thinking.