Outcry at Bosnian Government’s Pay Rise

Sarajevo _ There are calls for new elections after leaders in Bosnia’s Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim)-Croat dominated Federation entity, upped their salaries despite a looming economic crisis.

Calls for a campaign of ‘civil disobedience’ are coming from Bosnian trade unions, non-governmental organisations and media.

“They have completely lost any connection with reality and with citizens whom they should represent,” the president of Bosnia’s Association of Independent Trade Unions, Edhem Biber, told media over the weekend.
“It is utterly incorrect to behave like that in the situation where the waves of the global economic crisis are hitting our country. Instead of contributing to the stabilisation of the situation, they are only generating a crisis,” Biber said and called on the people to demand resignations or go into “civic disobedience.”

Ignoring public criticism, the Federal House of Peoples on Friday adopted a law which – if also approved by the House of Representatives this week – will almost double the salaries of federal government officials and parliament deputies as of January 1, 2009.

In order to secure funds for the salary hike, the law allows the sacrifice of other budgetary resources, such as international grants, loans as well as counterpart funding for joint development projects. 
This decision comes just as the global recession has started affecting Bosnian economy.

Only last week, several leading Bosnian companies have sacked more than 700 workers, while several other firms have announced they will have to reduce both production and staff. Economic experts have warned that because of fragile structure of Bosnia’s economy, more than 50,000 people could lose jobs in the news few months, media reported on Monday.

In light of this, the government of the other, Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska has already adopted a set of “saving measures” including a 10 percent cut for all top government and parliament officials. Yet the federal authorities are set to increase their pay from the €1,300 to over €2,500 per month.
Repeatedly asked by the media about the rationale behind this decision, federal premier Nedzad Brankovic baffled and infuriated the public by saying “We all will have to brace this crisis.”
Making the situation even more confusing, the federal finance minister Vjekoslav Bevanda told media that the federal budget in 2009 does not have enough resources for this increase.
In her weekend editorial for the influential Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz, Edina Sarac said that the attempt to increase salaries is “a shameful and scandalous move by the lawmakers and proof of the arrogance and disrespect with which they treat those who have elected them.”

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