BiH commits billions of euros to new road projects.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 20/02/13
The Banja Luka Gradiska, near the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, opened in January. [Drazen Remikovic/SETimes]
Despite difficult economic conditions, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has ambitious plans to invest in its road networks, and experts say improving highways could also help boost the country's economic prospects across the region.
"When some of the world's great industrialists see that there are no roads in your country, then your country is not attractive for investing and people simply avoid your business zone. When there is a highway that immediately means faster, safer delivery and transportation of goods and people," Sasa Grabovac, president of the Association of Economists in Banja Luka, told SETimes.
Republika Srpska opened the 43-kilometre highway Banja Luka Gradiska in January, which will be part of a 400-kilometre network of highways that is planned to be completed by 2020.
Sandra Kovacevic Djurdjevic, spokesperson for the RS Ministry of Transport and Communications, told SETimes construction of the 40-kilometre Prnjavor-Doboj Highway is scheduled for completion in 2015 at a cost of about 180 million euros. She added that the complete network should cost about 3 billion euros.
The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is building a 340-kilometre highway -- Corridor 5C -- that will also cost about 3 billion euros by its completion in 2017.
Boris Tihi, a professor at the Faculty of Economy in Sarajevo, said a new highway network in BiH and in the region could have long-term benefits.
According to BiH labour union statistics, the country's construction firms had 30 percent fewer jobs in 2012 than they did in 2011, and more than 50,000 construction workers lost their jobs in the past three years.
"It will help the Balkans' construction business to revive. It would also mean more foreign investment, and more tourism potential. Transport and industry will also have the greatest benefit from the highway," Tihi told SETimes.
Miro Secivanovic, director of the Tesanj-based Radex construction company, said the BiH construction sector is well-equipped to handle the work.
"Nearly 70 percent of domestic companies fulfill the conditions for building a highway, therefore, we are ready to build the roads," Secivanovic told SETimes. "With involvement of domestic companies, the state could help the current economic situation in the construction business, which is now very difficult."