FBiH reform to reduce spending, overlap

06/12/2012

Fundamental reform is necessary to make the entity more functional, but must be accompanied by steps to protect citizens' livelihoods and rights.

By Bedrana Kaletovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 06/12/12

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FBiH's 10 cantons will be affected by the proposed reorganisation.[AFP]

The most extensive reform of BiH's constitutional order since the Dayton Peace Accords will take place in the spring to reduce public administration, rein in enormous spending and better protect citizens' rights, according to experts.

The goal is to reform the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) without impacting the country's overall activities, according to Nedim Ademovic, constitutional law expert at the Law Institute of BiH, who is working on the reform proposals.

"The reform should simplify the administrative-territorial structure and the sharing of competencies by the entities among the cantons and municipalities," Ademovic told SETimes.

FBiH has 10 cantons which, many argue, make it financially unsustainable. Moreover, cantonal jurisdictions in FBiH overlap in many segments.

"BiH does not have a health ministry, but does have two such ministries at the entity level and 10 at the cantonal level. Any form of co-operation ... is impossible with such a diverse structure," Senad Trnacevic, a professor of medicine in Tuzla, told SETimes.

Under the reform, some ministries will be abolished but not the cantons themselves, said Nermin Niksic, prime minister of FBiH.

"Instead of having 10 governments and assemblies in each canton, one minister will represent his canton in the FBiH government," Niksic told SETimes.

The cantons guarantee territorial and national representation, and their adjustments will lead to substantial changes in the regulation of the country, according to Kasim Trnka, constitutional law expert and former judge at the Constitutional Court of FBiH.

"By changing the cantons we will have to change the FBiH constitution as well. Of course, the country's entire constitutional concept should be changed, [in a direction] which is partially contained in the Sejdic-Finci verdict," Trnka told SETimes.

Trnka warned the worst option will be to merge the Bosniak-majority as well as the Croatian-majority cantons, which would create a third entity in the country. Public spending consumes 60 percent of FBiH's budget, while the country spends 25 percent of the state budget on salaries.

The FBiH finance ministry confirmed the entity's external and internal debt is 3 billion euros, 100 million more than last year.

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"We have more than 1,000 advisors who rotate from election to election and are an enormous cost. Public spending must be cut in half, especially in FBiH ... it has cantons as a mid-level of government," Adis Arapovic, representative of the Centers for Civic Initiatives, told SETimes.

Ademovic said the government needs to rethink the reforms' financial implications in advance, and how it will manage the resulting large number of unemployed. Many citizens said they are concerned about the prospect of losing their jobs during a prolonged economic crisis and uncertain economic future, while others fear losing their national rights.

"I have completed numerous trainings because that was requirement for my job in public administration. After all, I could lose the job after that reform and my family will lose conditions for normal life. Problem is that nobody cares about me and other like me. We will be just one more number of the statistics of the unemployed in this country," Esad Cackovic, a public administration employee, told SETimes.

A working conference is planned in the spring to discuss options for the reform.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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