Oct 11, 2014 6:13 AM
Bosnian voters bleak over untapped flood aid
The Associated Press
MAGLAJ, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) Five months after the Sahman family lost nearly everything they owned in massive floods, they have received almost no help from Bosnian authorities just two beds from their municipality for their ruined home.
They have seen nothing of the 800 million euros ($1 billion) that international donors pledged to help Bosnia recover from the country's worst floods in 120 years, an event so calamitous that it displaced 90,000 people from their homes and left 43,000 homes in need of repair.
Bosnia's foreign minister, Zlatko Lagumdzija, says the money has not yet reached government accounts.
"Payment zero. This is how much money we received until now from the donors' money onto the accounts of institutions of Bosnia," Lagumdzija told a recent press conference in Sarajevo.
U.S. officials say that Bosnian officials have failed to present credible plans for spending it.
Disillusion over the situation is adding to a sense of hopelessness that pervades the country as Bosnians prepare for Sunday's elections.
Bosnia's 3.3 million voters will elect more than 500 officials, including a three-member presidency, a national parliament and leaders of Bosnia's two regions.
In one region, they will elect a president and a parliament. The other region has a parliament, and is further divided into 10 self-administering units, each with a parliament.
The winners will run one of the world's most complex political systems, with nearly 22,000 bureaucrats on various levels of governments with overlapping authorities. Critics say the system fosters corruption and is too expensive for a country with a 44 percent jobless rate.
The Sahmans, like many others, feel that electing new officials won't help them much.
"We are losing hope," said Elvira Sahman, 48, who works in administration in a paper factory. "If we could, we would leave this country."
Renting temporary housing leaves the family of four with no extra money to rebuild their home. In desperation, the family put up a sign on their broken-out windows calling on anyone who can to assist them.
"As time goes by we think there is less and less chance that we will get anything," said Elvira's 50-year-old husband, Sadik.
Two U.S. diplomats recently used a blog entry titled "Outrage" to accuse Bosnian politicians of having "no real plans, or even serious ideas, to offer for recovery."
Col. Scott Miller, the U.S. defense attach , and David Barth, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Bosnia further accused Bosnian leaders of "preferring to focus on their standard approach of cronyism, party advantage, backroom deals, and blame-shifting."
That drew a sharp rebuke from Lagumdzija, who said the authors had "unfortunately forgotten to mention" that Bosnia has the "bureaucratic disaster" of a political system that was designed by the same international community now criticizing it.
He agreed assistance was slow, but even planning requires cooperation among "13 unsynchronized levels of government with overlapping authorities," he said. "It would have been fair if they reminded the public that this system was developed in Dayton."
The Dayton Peace Accords which ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war divided the country into two political entities, one for the Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats, and the other for the Christian Orthodox Serbs. Each has state-like institutions, with the central government above them.
While the Bosniaks and Croats largely prefer a more unified country that could eventually join the European Union; the Bosnian Serb leaders want to secede and have close ties with Russia.
Many critics accuse the Serb entity, Republika Srpska, of trying to stoke up ethnic tensions to maintain their drive for independence. The critics accuse the Serb leaders of failing to work with the Croats and Bosniaks to devise a nation-wide plan for using the foreign funds as a way of keeping the central government from getting any credit for helping the citizens.