BiH gets its first professional government


Comprised of professionals instead of politicians, the new government was established in Tuzla.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 23/04/14


The Tuzla Canton government resigned after citizen demonstrations in February. [AFP]

Protesters in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) saw their first concrete victory in the Tuzla Canton, which recently elected a government comprised of professionals with no party affiliation and no political experience.

Protests throughout the country broke out at the beginning of February, forcing four of the country's 10 cantonal governments to resign. Citizens rallied against the country's massive unemployment and socio-economic problems that have not been addressed by state or local governments.

Plenums, non-political gatherings of citizens open to all those who wanted to participate, sprung up in many parts of the country in the wake of the protests. The Tuzla plenum will work with the new government to implement ideas.

"The expert government is a completely new approach to politics in BiH because it is a direct democracy, and I think it's good for the citizens of this country," Mirsad Djonlagic, an MP in the Federation of BiH parliament, told SETimes. "We'll see how those governments function and what will eventually be achieved. This is a good solution because the voice of the citizens who are looking for change finally can be heard."

New Tuzla Prime Minister Bahrija Umihanic, a former economics professor, formed his cabinet with professors, doctors and businessmen.

Umihanic and the other ministers signed statements freezing their membership in political parties, if they had any, and pledged not to run in October's general elections.

"I believe we can do a lot or a little. A lot if we all work together and only a little if we work separately," Umihanic said.

"Our intention in this term is to solve the problems of at least two companies that are 'on their knees,'" he added, referring to the local economy.

He also said streamlining administration and austerity measures would be top priorities.

"We will try to reduce the number of ministries and to reduce public spending," Umihanic said. "The first thing we will do is to try to keep acquired rights of all budget users, basic rights. Everything that is not a basic right will be a subject to review and possibly cutting. We will find a way to start production in the destroyed factories. We will form a solidarity fund in order to invest in new jobs."

One of the first demands the government implemented was the abolishment of the so-called "white bread," a privilege that allows politicians to take salaries up to a year after their mandates have ended.

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The Sarajevo Cantonal Assembly said it also will form a government made up of experts, will revamp the salaries and benefits for those in executive and legislative positions and will revise the privatisation process.

But two months since the beginning of massive protests, workers of several collapsed factories in Tuzla Canton are still on the streets, demanding new authorities resolve their status. Several hundred of them worked at the factories that were destroyed after the 1990s privatisations and haven't received paychecks for years.

"We fully support the new composition of the government, however we will continue to protest until we see some concrete results," Fatima Huskic, a worker at the Borac clothing factory, told SETimes. "The fact that we have been working for so many years, and now we are on the street, is sad. It is a shame the politicians have brought us to the streets after 20 years.''

Will local governments run by professionals help solve the problems in BiH? Why or why not? Tell us your thoughts below.

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