Loans give displaced people hope that better days are ahead.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 03/01/12
More than a million people were forced from their homes during the war in BiH from 1991 to 1995. [AFP]
Thanks to a 100 million-euro line of credit approved by the Turkish government last May, dairy farmer and returned refugee Osman Muharemovic sees prosperity in his future.
"I had big problems with the domestic banks, and they practically brought me to collapse. I barely saved my farm of 20 cows. The Turkish loan provided me a chance to advance and increase my milk production by 20 percent," the native of Konjevic Polje village in Republika Srpska's Bratunac Municipality told SETimes.
Muharemovic is one of the first beneficiaries of Ankara's credit line, which was set up primarily to support displaced persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The funds are disbursed through two banks in BiH -- Bosnia Bank International and the Turkish-owned Ziraat Bank -- and will be available for the next 10 years. Muharemovic added that his 7,500-euro loan was processed with an efficiency that is rare in BiH, making the Turkish funds an attractive option.
"The procedure of getting a credit was very simple and I practically got the money the same day I applied. And most importantly, there is no interest rate," he said. "Since I told my colleagues about my experience with the bank, they've begun to apply for the same loans."
More than a million people were forced from their homes during the war in BiH from 1991 to 1995. Authorities have secured the return of property seized during the bloodshed, but the roughly 113,000 persons who remain displaced continue to face poverty and unemployment.
Amer Bukvic, general director of Bosnia Bank International, told SETimes the funds offered new opportunities to displaced people who are struggling economically, with the added benefit of contributing to the re-integration of areas scarred by ethnic conflict.
"The refugees and displaced persons are now able to obtain favorable credits through the Turkish credit line, to return to their homes, to start producing, to make their own businesses," he said. "The basic criterion for the credit is the return of minorities: the return of Bosniaks and Croats in the Republika Srpska and the Serbs in the Federation of BiH. These so-called 'little people' who are returning to their homes are the pillar of BiH's multi-ethnicity."
Bukvic added that the neediest citizens were eligible for interest-free financing, while rates for others would range from 2.99 percent to 3.99 percent, depending on the length of the loan.
In addition to sustainable returns of refugees, the Turkish funds are expected to support projects in agriculture, tourism, employment, and the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Azra Hadziahmetovic, economics professor at Sarajevo University, said more such initiatives are needed in BiH.
"Every credit line that is intended to the most vulnerable categories of the population is welcome for the population of this country. At a time when it is difficult to live even to the people who have a safe job, every euro is important," he told SETimes.
As international monitoring groups continue to criticise the BiH government for the slow rate of returns, Hadziahmetovic called on political leaders to see the Turkish credit line as an example.
"Returnees are a category to which more attention must be paid. The state should find ways to offer similar help to those who need it the most."