Bosnian Privatisation according to National Quotas


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Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 15:17:34 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: Bosnian Privatisation according to National Quotas

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Original sender: Greek Helsinki Monitor <balkanHR@greekhelsinki.gr>

Bosnian Privatisation according to National Quotas


*** PRIVATISATION ACCORDING TO NATIONAL QUOTAS
 
** A PILE OF MONEY IN EXCHANGE FOR POWER
 
AIM, Sarajevo, July 8, 1999
 
By definition, money knows no national, religious or political
affiliation. It seems that this rule applies everywhere in the world
except in B&H which has for a long time been known as a "land of
wonders and absurdities". Three and a half years after the war B&H is
still divided by not so visible but firm national barriers within
which each ruling national party "sovereignly" rules on its feud and
all that in "the name of the people and for the sake of protecting
vital national interests".
 
Is money, i.e. the control over its flow, the real reason for their
frantic struggle for power or perhaps the money is just a means by
which they manage to stay in power for ever, sounds like the old
chicken-and-egg question. But,in the long run it is all the same. At
this moment of utmost importance is the final result in the form of
growing misery and general poverty which only a "chosen" few are
spared.
 
The authors of the Dayton Peace Accords for B&H were fully aware of
the actual situation along ethnic lines all over Bosnia and
Herzegovina, but saw the money, i.e. profit as the main instrument for
the removal of existing barriers because of its ability of always
finding the way out. Therefore, the insistence of the representatives
of the international community in B&H on the soonest possible
initiation and conclusion of privatisation as well as silent
resistance of current authorities to and obstruction of privatisation
are easy to understand.
 
Namely, with privatisation the authorities would lose one of the main
levers of power - rule over what is left of the once state/social
property. At this moment, the privatisation process in t he B&H
Federation is threatening to produce quite the opposite effect from
the desired one - to shift the national divisions existing on the
political and territorial plane to the economic sphere and thus
definitely legalise the principle of ethnic divisions in B&H instead
of introducing the desired reintegration. The concept of privatisation
in FB&H was developed under the assumption that in investing his
privatisation certificate each owner, i.e. some 1.9 million people in
FB&H, or every citizen of age, will give priority to economic motives,
i.e. potential profit.
 
Recently Kresimir Zubak, leader of the New Croatian Initiative and
former leading HDZ man, warned the public that "through the
Hercegovacka banka and its affiliated firms, the HDZ is planning to
establish an investment fund which would collect certificates from all
Croats in B&H and use them for the purchase of state property on its
area so that the other side could not buy it".
 
Nevertheless, the idea on privatisation in FB&H according to the
national quotas is not a novelty. Such an idea was first heard last
summer at the SDA Economic Council and explained by a need to
"concentrate the Bosniac certificates at one place and invest them in
enterprises which are of Bosniac national interest". It remained
unclear in both cases which criteria would be used in proclaiming an
enterprise to be of "vital national interest" for one nation. As
things stand now, it seems that the decisive factor is the territory
on which an enterprise is located, while all other aspects like
profit, market prospects and similar "trifles" are irrelevant.
 
There are no formal obstacles to the establishment of such funds
because, officially, they would be open to everyone. It's quite
another matter whether eg. Bosniacs would be willing to invest their
certificates in a "Croatian" fund and vice versa, whether Croats would
entrust a "Bosniac" fund with their certificates. Judging by all,
there is a tacit consensus regarding this issue among the ruling
national parties in the B&H Federation - the SDA and the HDZ -
expressed in the principle "finders keepers", while the rest is a
question of method.
 
Numerous foreign and national experts broke their necks trying to
persuade future domestic capitalists, i.e. share-holders who are
already totally confused, that the optimum solution for investing
privatisation certificates are privatisation investment funds (PIF)
which is further corroborated by the entire market economy theory and
practice and is beyond any question. However, not a single request for
the establishment of a privatisation investment fund has been
submitted and although there were some unofficial announcements
nothing specific has been done yet.
 
The reason partly lies in the fact that a founding deposit of 1
million German marks in cash is required for the establishment of a
PIF. Needless to say, much more money than that can be found in bags
and pockets of the newly emerged rich, but the question remains
whether they think it interesting and worth their while to invest this
sum as a founding deposit in a fund or that it would be more
profitable to "turn over" this capital through half-legal and illegal
deals and thus increase it many times over.

Although the so called "little privatisation" has already started, the
"national" as well as other interests will come to the fore only with
the sale of large enterprises which, according to the officials from
the Privatisation Agency, could happen this fall.
 
The success of the privatisation idea according to ethnic quotas will
crucially depend on the readiness of citizens to entrust their
certificates to them. If only two investment funds with more or less
open "national sing" appear on the market the result is certain
already now - the existing state enterprises will be privatised, but
under the national "umbrella", and the ruling elite will be granted
the right to legally run the economy under the guise of market economy
and "sacred and inviolable" principle of private property.
 
Then the international community will be able to come to a
satisfactory conclusion that the transition of property has been
carried out in B&H while the main cause of the majority of problems
would still lie in a combination of money, crime and politics
garnished with a national concept of power. In that case, by
enthroning themselves as the new economic elite, the current
power-holders might be more willing to forgo the formal political
power which they hold ow in exchange for the power which comes with
the money, i.e. the economic control. In that way they would get only
a "mandatory fine" and avoid having to account to public for all that
has (not) been done and for the missed chances to make it possible for
ordinary people of B&H to live at least decently of their own labour
and hope for a better future. Their certificates should help them in
this, on condition that they are invested in enterprises with market
prospects which has nothing in common with "vital national interests"
no matter how hard national spiritual fathers will try to convince
their today's voters and tomorrow's share-holders of the contrary.
 
#Drazen SIMIC
 
(AIM Sarajevo)
 
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