Enhancing co-operation with the diaspora could positively impact the economic development of BiH and the rest of southeastern Europe.
By Ana Lovakovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 09/09/13
Mostar hosted the first BiH diaspora conference this summer. [AFP]
Economists agree that about 10 million emigrants from the region represent untapped economic potential that, given the opportunity, could yield significant investment projects and bring in business opportunities, jobs and increased economic activity in the Balkans.
Mostar's Intera Technology Park and the Prijedor local community throughout July and August hosted the first diaspora investment congress in Mostar, gathering 600 BiH diaspora entrepreneurs from 17 countries.
The BiH diaspora is willing to engage in economic development through investments, help with exports and the transfer of knowledge and technology.
"We are beginning to form a bridge between our business expatriates and entrepreneurs. If the diaspora, as one of the best promotions and distribution channels in the world, does not get involved in the economic processes in BiH, the chance for economic recovery is small," Zeljko Matkovic, project co-ordinator at Intera, told SETimes.
"BiH can offer quality products and be competitive compared to Western markets as evident from numerous good examples. So, we decided to organise a business co-operation conference with the diaspora under of the BiH council of ministry sponsorship," he said.
Zlatko Papac, owner of the Lasta Travel Company from Mostar, recognises the economic potential in BiH. He returned to Mostar working abroad and is now co-operating with more than 30 companies -- bus operators, restaurants, hotels, travel guides, and nature parks in the tourist industry.
"Lasta Travel, in Mostar was opened as a travel agency based on indications that there are opportunities and prospects for tourism development in BiH. The government should analyse the diaspora to develop a plan of action. We should not talk about the diaspora as investors, but as partners," Papac told SETimes.
"We want to increase awareness of the diaspora of its development potential. In BiH it's not the case, although the diaspora in many international surveys is mentioned as potentially an important economic factor. It is necessary to point out that, for BiH economy, the diaspora remittances can have a much more significant long-term positive role, which for years they've been sending to their families [making up more than 21 percent of GDP]," Anes Ceric, secretary of the World Alliance of BiH diaspora, told SETimes.
According to Vjekoslav Domljan, a professor at the faculty of economics in Sarajevo, in addition to remittances that yield a significant share in the total GDP, it is important to improve the country's business environment to attract investors from abroad. Without an attractive business market, he explained, there is no foreign investment, or investment from the diaspora.
The BiH ministry for human rights and refugee data show that the country's diaspora makes more than a third of the total population of the country, or 1.4 million people.
What are some other ways BiH could attract diaspora investments to boost the country's economy? Add your comment in the space below.