IBNA Op-Ed/Return of economic hope

IBNA Op-Ed/Return of economic hope

By Margarita Kadriu

On the eighth year as an independent state, Republic of Kosovo is facing a deep economic crisis. Unemployment has reached alarming rates. Official figures indicate a 30% rate, while figures of the World Bank show that unemployment rate amounts up to 45%. One third of the population lives in poverty, while at least 10%, based on the World Bank reports, live in extreme poverty.

Every time elections have been held, the main political parties have pledged that their program would be focused on the creation of new jobs, economic development, but the way how they planned to do this was wrong. It’s true that when they came in power, some jobs were created, but in the public sector and not the private sector.

Armies of party militants filled ministries, embassies, communes, agencies and public companies.

Today, we have the most overburdened, unprofessional and politically influenced administration in the region and beyond.

Government incentives for employment were in fact a great failure of all governments and especially of those that handled power after independence.

Politicians and their clans didn’t see legitimate business as key to employment, but as a source of personal benefits and a guarantee for them to stay in power as long as possible.

Budget policies were drafted and implemented based on this dangerous ambition. On one hand, through corruptive and criminal privatization of the most important national assets that ended up in the hands of the oligarchy created after the war and on the other, public funds were channeled in a non transparent way into inefficient projects costing hundreds of millions, which could have been invested in other forms and not becoming an immediate burden on the modest budget of the state. The economy remained under the control of corrupt people in power, who divided its sectors as if they were private properties, where incriminated leaders represented modern lords. They decided on everything, based on the enormous profits. Whoever was not be part of this circle of decision making, would have trouble surviving.

If in the first years after the war, people in power were happy with small amounts of reward in exchange of favors, after independence, things changed drastically. Rulers were now the only shareholders of the wealth of oligarchs. Formally, they were not noticed, but practice showed that the name was the only thing lacking on corporations which suddenly become powerful, which created dangerous monopolies for competition in complete violation of the Constitution. Whoever would pass on their radar, would be stopped at any condition, at any form, without selecting the means and in open violation of the law and Constitution of the country. Licenses, permits, investments, in spite of serious projects, which would  create thousands of jobs, were immediately blocked and remain blocked up to this day, if their initiators were not part of the corruptive and criminal herd that weaved the threads of corruptive business.

With a capitulated justice system, where judges and prosecutors were sold cheap, Kosovo’s mobs had no difficulty in controlling everything and becoming the law themselves. As a result, foreign investments last year saw a drastic fall by half. There were more foreign investments before independence than seven years after independence.

2014 shows the serious consequences on the economy that dependency on this political course has. Sometimes, irresponsible government tried to manipulate the public opinion. Kosovo’s Agency of Statistics tried to deny this, confirming the smallest economic growth in all these years. For 2014, economic growth was 0,9%. This outrageous image that incompetent and corrupted politicians gave to Kosovo, will have serious consequences in the years to come. A lot of work is needed to attract serious investors, who as soon as they landed in Pristina’s Airport, they were asked to pay bribery for a service, a work permit, a construction permit or an operation permit.

Today, over 1 billion Euros belonging to Kosovo citizens, are outside the country, while trade deficit is over 2 billion Euros a year.

We have resources and labor force and ideas, but unfortunately, those who have governed us do not care about the economic development of the country.

Kosovo must learn a lesson from the bad experience of this catastrophic period, if we want to restore the lost economic hope of our country. If the only aim is to enrich insatiable politicians, this country will never see a promising day, but if corrupt people are brought to justice, then the green light is given to those who really care for Kosovo and things will surely move forward for the economy of the country.

*The author is an independent member of the Parliament of Kosovo

** The opinion of the author doesn’t necessarily represent IBNA’s editorial line