The heavy price of Bosnian bureaucracy

Bosnia, a country of less than four million people, has nearly 40,000 government workers who cost 800 million euro per year to maintain.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
The heavy price of Bosnian bureaucracy - NewsMavens
Bosnia and Herzegovina flags flying outside Parliament . Wikicommons.

Why this story matters:

Bosnia & Herzegovina may rank near the bottom when it comes to GDP in Europe, but there is one list where it's on top: the number of public officials and public spending per capita.

It's worth mentioning, however, that its five-tier, oversized administration is notoriously inefficient. The EU and the IMF have consistently emphasized the importance of a reform of the public administration in their dealings with BiH. On paper, the country agreed by sigining a reform agenda in 2015.

However, data collected from no less than three agencies in charge of public sector employment show that absolutely nothing has changed in this respect in the past three years. 

This failure to reform will have two major consequences. First, the state will continue to hemorrhage public funds that are desperately needed elsewhere. Second, the clientelist voting machine -- one of the main externalities of public employment in BiH -- will stay in place. 


Details from the story:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina has 13 governments and parliaments with an accompanying 13 prime ministers, hundreds of ministers, and even more MPs and their staff members.
  • The country has five administrative levels: the state, two entities -- one of which is divided in ten cantons -- a district and 143 local self-governments. 
  • The 800 million euro per year spent on public servant salaries doesn't include the 10 cantons in the Federation of BiH, which adds hundreds if not thousands more public servants to the roster.
  • Public administration goes well beyond the elected and appointed officials -- 34,653 salaries are paid from the budgets of just the top two power levels. 
  • The country adopted a strategy for public sector reform 15 years ago but never implemented it. 
  • In 2015, both entities and the state government committed to cut costs and increase efficiency. There is no evidence that this has been accomplished.
  • It is almost impossible to get a precise record of public spending on administration. Each administrative level has its own way of budgeting, and their data is neither comprehensive nor comparable.
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