Government and private sector representatives gathered on Tuesday for a full day event to discuss the impact of recent elections in the Middle East and North Africa, and the Western Balkans.
The conference was organized by the newly established think tank “Transatlantic Leadership Network”, a successor to the Center for Transatlantic Relations – SAIS at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C. While the staff is not yet listed on its website, the management team of this new think tank is known – many of the most influential people from SAIS will be heading the organization: Daniel Hamilton as president, Michael Haltzel as chairman of the committee, and Sasha Toperich as first vice president.
Jasmin Mahmuzić, director of the banking agency of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the two entities in Bosnia (the other is Republika Srpska), noted that most results from the Reform agenda were seen during the first year of its implementation, but that in the past two years there has been a significant slowdown. “Not much progress has been made in the business environment and public sector reform,” said Mahmuzić. Still, he expects GDP growth in 2018 at 3.1% and 3.6% in 2019. “Increased fiscal discipline led to an increase of indirect tax revenues by around 7.5%,” he said.
“We don’t have time to waste and new documents or agendas need to be implemented as soon as possible. We have to address with issues with faster economic growth, combat youth unemployment, and take systemic action against corruption,” said Mahmuzić.
Mahmuzić also emphasized successful financial models that can be applied in different areas. “The improvements in banking regulations resulted in a completed revised banking system. Today, we can say that our banking system is in line with the Basel principles [de facto standard for the regulation and supervision of banks], appropriate to perform the needs of the wider system. With the help of our partners, and especially USAID, the IMF and World Bank, we have developed a framework to further support the development of the banking system and maintaining stability. There is a crisis action plan for individual institutions and the system as a whole,” he said.
Dalibor Milos, Chairman of the Aluminum Supervisory Board, noted that progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina is far from where it should be compared to international standards. “Our problems can be classified into four broad categories: emigration, the economic situation, political issues and the rule of law,” he noted, adding that “In the last 26 years, we have lost a third of the population [there are currently 3.5 million people living in BiH].”
It is a known fact that Bosnians have been emigrating in large numbers, mainly to western Europe. Milos noted that the biggest reason, but not the only one, is the state of the economy. “Regardless of some of the successes of the reform agenda, the situation is very difficult. We are the bottom of all world statistics. The reason why is because political issues are prevailing instead of the fight against corruption and economic progress. All three peoples [Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs] still feel threatened. Unless all three nations feel secure, progress will not be made in other areas, such as the economy,” he said.