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News 25 May 12

Bosnian MPs Vote to Cut Their Own Salaries

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina passed the 2012 budget on May 24 and also approved a decision to cut public servants' salaries, including their own, by 4.5 percent.

Elvira Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

The lower chamber of Parliament adopted a 2012 budget, which covers state institutions, worth 485 million Euros, and approved a decision to lower the salaries of public servants, including members of parliament, as part of an initiative to rein in public spending.

Finance Minister Nikola Spiric said the budget's provisions were not ideal but were necessary in order to begin addressing the major problems the country faces.

"No one is bowled over by this budget, but it's a budget that will not endanger the Euro-Atlantic path of Bosnia or any state institution," Spiric told MPs on Thursday.

Although the budget was supported by a majority of 31 votes, six MPs from the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, which is one of the six  parties in the governing coalition, voted against. This has fuelled speculation that the SDA might withdraw from the coalition.

At a meeting of leaders of the six ruling parties in Sarajevo on March 23, the day before the budget was adopted by the lower house, the SDA indicated that it would not approve the budget as the budget was 20 million Euros less than the SDA had demanded. The SDA wanted to use the additional funds to exempt police officers from the 4.5 percent budget cuts.

The leader of the Social Democrats, Zlatko Lagumdzija, said on Wednesday after the six leaders met that if the SDA did not support the budget then the future of the coalition must be in question. Regular meetings of the coalition party leaders have emerged as an extra-institutional form of political decision-making.

SDA President Sulejman Tihic told journalists after the meeting that he and his party colleagues believed the budget should be larger and that the party would not back down on what was a matter of principle.

At Thursday's session of Parliament, the House of Representatives also adopted changes to the law regulating the pensions of former soldiers and resolved that their rights should be protected under similar entity laws, after the state-level government has paid their current pension arrears.

After ending a "sleep-in" protest outside the Parliament more than a month ago, several hundred former soldiers again gathered on Thursday in front of the parliament building in Sarajevo to wait for the results of the vote on the law regulating their pensions.

One former soldier said that several protestors had already held talks with officials from the Federation entity government, who had indicated that work can begin on regulating their pensions according to the entity legislation. However, there is no corresponding legislation in the Republika Srpska entity under which former soldiers from that entity could be provided with pensions at the entity level.

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