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Interview

Visit to Prime Minister of Canton Sarajevo Elmedin Konakovic, 25. 05. 2016.

 

INTERVIEW: ELMEDIN KONAKOVIĆ, PRIME MINISTER OF CANTON SARAJEVO

 

Interviewed by Mustafa SKULIĆ

SARAJEVO, May 27 (ONASA) – The Prime Minister of the Sarajevo Canton (KS) Elmedin Konaković in the interview for the Agency ONASA talks about the Government, water supply, GRAS, implemented reforms in the Canton, employment, parliamentary majority in the Canton …

ONASA: How do you assess the work of the Government in the current period, what has been realized and what are priorities in the coming period?

KONAKOVIĆ: It is hard for me to evaluate the work of the Government and to talk about ourselves, it is generally done by the Assembly and the public of the Sarajevo Canton. My general impression is that the Government is composed of people who really honestly and correctly do their part of the job, thus was in the first convocation with the Democratic Front (DF) in the coalition, and in particular I have to emphasize the pleasure due to joining of five ministers from the Alliance for Better Future (SBB), who for me are very positive surprise, because they have raised the level of the Government’s work to new step.
We have found the state of mild chaos with some 120 million BAM of the deficit, including 30 million BAM of enforceable judgments, delays in payments to suppliers and a number of other problems, such as water supply, stray dogs, safety, GRAS.
In the first measurement we had indications that we have repaired about 47 million BAM of the deficit, which was surprise for us as well. We have started paying enforceable judgments to those who deserved to get the money in the court, and in the first quarter of this year with the moratorium we have saved up close to 3.5 million BAM on salaries and other compensation, which so far is the best result.
Those who work in the system show discipline, and we have completely changed the concept and attitude of employees in other non-budgetary institutions, such as public utility companies, funds and institutions.
Already this year, we have several companies that are profitable and couple of those that pay money in the budget of the Canton. In my opinion, we, as the Government, are satisfied with relations of the system we manage, our work will be evaluated by the public and the Cantonal Assembly.
Currently, the focus are several major problems, the first is the water supply, it is the number one problem of the Sarajevo Canton, and you have see that this year we have allocated two million BAM for detection and four million BAM for reconstruction, and by the end of this year we will set aside about seven million BAM, and with the EBRD we are in the phase of talks on the long-term loan, therefore, the Government will, in its mandate, solve the water supply, and if this does not happen, it will be the failure of the Government.
At the end of next year there should be no reductions, and we should have efficient company one year after that, which means that the Cantonal Public Utility Company (KJKP) “Vodovod i kanalizacija” d.o.o. (water supply and sewerage) with this monopoly of the market and resources at its disposal should be a profitable company.
We would like to have a magic wand or that someone tells us how to resolve the issue of GRAS (public transport company), especially those that have tried and failed. Not only did they not make any progress, but have taken steps backwards each year. Since 2000, not a screw had been replaced on the water supply network for 16 years, no government, no management in GRAS had made progress.
A few years ago in GRAS was employed 2.100 people and the loss on monthly basis after our arrival was 2.5 million BAM, and we have managed to reduce it by 700.000 BAM. Today there works 1.500 people, we have allocated the money for the purchase of 10 minibuses, 15 buses are coming from Istanbul and we will buy trolleybuses and buses.
On special routes we have introduced a system of electronic payment of tickets, placing GRAS under full control and it shows how much we have done in a year. Are we going to be faster than confiscators, we do not know yet, because we have found this company in the state of “clinical death”, we are slowly reviving it, I am optimistic and I think we are going to succeed.
On the other hand, the Tax Administration and management board are behind our back, they can close this company tomorrow, and for the economy of the country and Canton it would be terrible shock.
In other areas we have progressed. Priority, in addition to solving public transport is and safety segment, which this year we have significantly supported, by receiving 130 new employees in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), buying vehicles and equipment. This year we aim to increase tourism as developmental economic potential.

ONASA: The Law on Allocation of Public Revenues in the FBiH is changing. How could it affect the Canton of Sarajevo?

KONAKOVIĆ: We advocate the change of the Law on Allocation of Public Revenues, because it is catastrophic, outdated and its model is inefficient, and it seems that Sarajevo in that law has some advantages.
With the study we have shown every comma and the revenue and expenditure sides, after which I saw some reactions, but we do not have much time to deal with these media squabbles. The Canton annually pays 2.500.000.000 BAM, and to it is returned 380.000.000 BAM, 2.120.000.000 BAM is consumed for life in BiH.
If someone abolished only importance factor to Sarajevo, that would mean that they take140 million BAM from us, without even thinking in what way and how is filled single treasury account, for us it would mean cutting. For example, we would probably fire all inspectors who control the VAT system in the Canton and employ only those who control the black market, because the focus for us would be on the revenue from contributions, because that is what belongs to the Canton.
To survive, we would have to see who is not employed, and would turn everything in that direction, for one step would fall the economy in the Canton, and the consequences would be borne and by the BiH economy.
Nobody else can pay 2.500.000.000 BAM with the speed with which Sarajevo does that, and the adoption of this law has benefits to resolve the problem of some bad privatizations. The idea to resolve mistakes of politics in Tuzla and other cantons with this money would cost more the FBiH than Canton Sarajevo.
We would survive by collecting from contributions what we need, but we would not have more time to take care how funds are paid to the treasury single account.

ONASA: What reforms from the Reform Agenda the Canton of Sarajevo implemented?

KONAKOVIĆ: In the public administration reform we have adopted several acts or laws. The Law on Civil Servants in the form of draft has already been adopted, in the area of the fight against corruption, I think we have done the most by forming anti-corruption team of the Government of the Sarajevo Canton.
Online reporting of the corruption, direct communication with the people in the field, several processes in the prosecutor’s office are consequences of these actions, and we are bringing a law on the origin of the property which is included in the agenda of the next Assembly on the proposal of the Government and Our Party.
Thus, in the Reform Agenda in those few fields I think we are making serious steps forward. I repeat, it is impossible for one year of the mandate to change everything that was wrong with the system.
Now we have 700 people less on the budget, we have procedures that talk about the environment for investment in the Canton with two laws that reduce court administrative fees, and are part of our project with the World Bank, in terms of improving the environment for investment.
We are doing the reform of the entire system, adopting the law on urban planning, which is new basis for investment and spatial plan that is very important.
We are doing many things and although cantons are not the focus of the Reform Agenda, I think most of this agenda is lying on backs of the cantons.

ONASA: You have adopted a program of measures to encourage employment in the amount of 6.5 million BAM, does the Government plan to launch additional employment projects?

KONAKOVIĆ: Number of unemployed in the Canton for the first time in recent years is close to be below 70.000, a year ago there were 75.000, and now there are 70.600 on the Employment Service.
We are not hiring in the public sector, and reduce a number of unemployed people by turning all money towards the real sector, not only through these active employment measures, but also through the adoption of the law on support to small and medium-sized enterprises, which last year was adopted in the Ministry of Economy.
Based on it, we have already allocated 3.500.000 BAM for direct support to the real sector, which, when we unite money with banks, created the fund between 20 and 30 million BAM of direct investment and support to development projects in the real sector.
We will finance partner companies that develop and enter into the concept of financing through the Ministry of Economy, winners of “Golden Badges” as evaluation of values of the society, for 20 of the is allocated 320.000 BAM for their employment.
The key word in the economy of the Canton is “new work place” because of the fight to survive, because that new work place brings direct income to the Canton.
I think that the results are easily measurable and you can find data from six months ago and today about a number of unemployed.

ONASA: Does the Canton of Sarajevo fully use its tourism potential?

KONAKOVIĆ: The stumbling stone for us are rumours regarding the Tourist Board of the Sarajevo Canton, which has caused so many reactions.
This is an organization, which now collects between three and four million BAM, the minimum of income, which is just enough to keep employees, and that one million BAM is given to the Ministry of Culture and Sport at the FBiH level, in which the minister shows what she thinks about the Canton of Sarajevo and culture and sports.
All this is the money from this tourist board, which must generate tourism offer in the Canton, do its promotion attract tourists, and currently it is not happening.
We passed the Law on Tourism, at the next session we will reach decision about establishment of new tourist board and closure of this one, which was founded by the Canton, but with the judgment of the Constitutional Court does not exist.
We will take all who work there, no one will lose their jobs, they remain in the system of tourist board, which will then have enough money to promote the Canton, to develop a strategy of its development, attracts tourists, help those who work in tourism, help hoteliers and some cultural – sports events that attract new tourists.
We have a big problem of collection of tourist taxes, many hotels still do not pay tax, we will employ 30 inspectors, they have passed competitios and we will get five new inspectors who will control the market of tourism.
Today the question is to whom they pay tourist tax and for what it serves. Able hoteliers have recognized the judgment of the Constitutional Court and said they have no one to pay the tax to because Tourist Board does not exist and that the status quo is harmful to the Canton.
With the establishment of new tourist board, five new tourist inspectors, in addition to existing ones, will control tax payment, and will impose drastic penalties for non-payers of taxes.

ONASA: You have announced the project of reconstruction of street lights, at what stage is this project?

KONAKOVIĆ: The first administrative phase is completed, even presented to mayors and representatives of local communities, currently is finalized the counting of lighting fixtures, because information that we had at the beginning were variable between 37.000 and 43.000 lighting points.
The Commission, formed by the Ministry of Utility Economy, I think ends its work in the counting today and at the beginning of next week we will have clear picture.
Then we will publish a public call, for which already applied 5-6 international companies that are interested in financing this project of the reconstruction, and that from savings in the coming years is paid their work and effort.
We have only one problem with the public procurement as the Agency does not recognize these long-term arrangements. We will ask for help from the state Agency for Public Procurements to give us suggestions on how to do it and to take the opportunity to implement the project worth 50 million BAM in three months.
I think that this project will be implemented this year, this means that the new LED lighting will enable the reduction of existing costs by 60 to 70 percent.

ONASA: The problem of parking spaces in Sarajevo is constant, are there any plans to solve this problem?

KONAKOVIĆ: Currently we have two projects, one came from the Municipality of Stari Grad, we will probably co-finance a garage near City Hall, we have the money of the Ministry of Transport for the construction of new parking lots. The second parking project, which we are doing by ourselves, will be in Novo Sarajevo near the Emergency Medical Service, they are the two largest projects, for which we will allocate about 5 million BAM already in this year.
Another problem is that the police punishes citizens around buildings in which they live, where we did not give them a parking space. With the regulation, which should be issued by the Ministry of Transport, we need to regulate this problem as well and that Ciglane, Breka and other neighborhoods in a way are arranged and to arrange payment of the parking space, guaranteeing people their free spot.

ONASA: Fahrudin Pecikoza left the SBB, is new parliamentary majority emerging?

KONAKOVIĆ: There will be no problems until this Assembly works in this way. The largest number of MPs put the interest of society at the forefront and do not go to us with certain personal requests, because we would not fulfill that.
I would never agree to work in an environment in which worked my colleagues, that every MP is the eighteenth hand and that from their daily mood should depend the concept of the work of the Government.
This is a tough function which I gladly do, there are many people in the Assembly who understand that, if that would change, nothing would keep me in this position, I would not agree to work under the blackmail or counting hands for some material.
We had unanimous support for adoption of the draft budget, the financial plan of the Health Insurance Institute, also the largest number of reform legislation was adopted unanimously. Thus, the Assembly works great.

ONASA: You have made unpopular measures with the abolition of “white bread” and harmonization of salaries to directors. What were the reactions?

KONAKOVIĆ: Their reactions are manifested by lobbying MPs in the Assembly, lobbying the media who write bad about it, in reactions via some union members close to political parties, and it is the fight in which we have shown on which side we are.
When you reduce to a director monthly income of 10.000 BAM and bring it to real 2.400 BAM, which is more than enough to live in the Canton of Sarajevo, during the day they make plots to spite you and awaken the dormant part of their sympathizers.
We hope that with these actions we will awake this part of objective people and politicians, MPs.
The first directors that we have dismissed were from the SDA, that was our decision because they did not work well, were close to some political circles and we did not have any political resistance. Here I have the full support of all organs of the Party at all levels, but I have encountered resistance from individuals who often tell me that perhaps I should not talk publicly about salaries of directors of public companies.
We will do everything publicly, these days we will come out with lists of debtors for water, among which are few who should be ashamed that they are there, as they are close to the political institutions and circles.
What we feel is that the society is ready to tackle them, and we are on that side and there will certainly be reactions and even more unpopular measures.
We are starting with more radical measures in deduction of some responsibilities and privileges of individuals, who have used it for a long time and the damage was 120 million BAM of the deficit in the Sarajevo Canton.

ONASA: Citizens have large debts to public companies, how to solve it?

KONAKOVIĆ: We have initiated an action plan to address the problem of debt collection from citizens, at the Municipal Court currently there is 97 percent of cases of utility economy. You can see how behaves one director of a company: they deliver the service, send an invoice to 12 BAM and do not care whether it will be collected, but present it to us as realized profit and not charged and send it to the court.
There are six, seven invoices, and the formation of the file at the Municipal Court costs 70 BAM, which is financed from the budget of the Canton, which creates problems to us. I wonder, Toplane have outstanding debt of more than 80 million BAM, but do you see collectors in the filed, coming and asking for money, of course you do not.
This is what we are changing in the minds of these directors. On May 25 we had the first evaluation of the work, we had a meeting three months ago, we gave them a three-month deadline, now they are reporting to the government what has been done, where were made savings and what is new income. (end)