SARAJEVO, Bosnia– In recent days, Bosnia has been inundated with protesters frustrated over government gridlock that has become all too common in the small European nation. Many have set government buildings ablaze to show their anger.
As their chief demand, the protesters are calling on the current political class to resign and be replaced by nonpartisan technocrats whom they believe could run the government much more efficiently. Since the end of the 1992-1995 war, the government in Bosnia has been defined by sectarian politics, and gridlock is the only result when the various political parties congregate.
The bureaucratic red tape stretches over 150 ministries which comprise the government in its entirety. Bosnia is essentially split in two, with separate governments run by different ethnic groups.
These ethnic groups consist of Bosniaks (Muslims), Croats and Serbs.
The Dayton peace accord that ended the war that rocked the country for three years created two governing bodies: the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. These two bodies operate as wholly separate entities, possessing their own president, parliament and police.
A central government hovers over both of these entities. Unfortunately, any attempt by the government to amend the constitution and erase the ethnic divisions that have locked it up for years have failed time and time again.
There are plenty examples of government inefficiency trickling down to hurt the average citizen. In one instance, ethnic bickering led to the denial of pensions to aging war veterans. In another, Bosnian fruit and vegetables are prohibited from entering Europe due to the country’s lack of a national food standards agency; fighting among the ethnic political parties has failed to create one.
Protesters believe the political parties are more interested in squabbling with one another than solving many of the social crises that Bosnia faces. A major pivotal crisis many Bosnians confront on a daily basis is that of crippling poverty.
With over 40% of the population unemployed, one in five citizens living below the poverty line and an average monthly salary of only $570, it is no surprise frustrated citizens have taken to the streets. Government reform is essential before Bosnia can make any kind of economic progress. The gridlock provided by intergovernmental ethnic bodies is too much of a barrier.
Foreign direct investment, a major boon to developing countries, would be a lucrative prospect for Bosnia, but a labyrinthine government plagued by redundancy, rivalry and corruption is a major disincentive from investment abroad. However, in many cases, representative government simply reflects the mood of the nation that it governs. The Bosnian people, with all of the ethnic groups they are comprised of, must resolve their differences on the societal level.
If Bosnian society remains fragmented as a result of its calamitous war, the government as a whole will remain gridlocked and inefficient, and the wider social problems, such as crippling poverty, will never be resolved.
– Zack Lindberg