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A group of Macedonians offers to stand on a Skopje Bridge as the first "permanent living human fence" after the city announces a steep €1.7-million price-tag for a new bridge fence with traditional folk motifs.
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
In a spoof performance a group of about 100 Facebook and Tweeter users on Sunday gathered on the bridge in central Skopje saying that for the same money, they should be hired by the authorities to pose as a safety barrier.
"Most of us are unemployed so we figured hiring us would be a much wiser option," one participant told Balkan Insight.
To demonstrate what they said was the absurdity of spending so much money on a new fence for the modestly proportioned bridge over the Vardar River, the group covered the existing fence almost entirely with fake 100-Euro banknote stickers.
"We have one million Euros in stickers here, enough to cover the entire bridge" explained Jasna, another participant.
Having originally announced that the new fence would be expensive because it would be "cast separately with depictions of Macedonian folklore", the city on Sunday changed its story.
In a statement it said that the 1.7 million Euros will also cover reconstruction and strengthening of the bridge, which was erected in the 1930s. The city accused the protestors of being politically motivated.
However, public procurement bureau data shows that the three contracts that the city has signed, worth a total of 1.7 million Euros, have nothing to do with reconstruction.
One contract worth 1,150,000 Euros is for "making and installation of a fence and lampposts". The second worth 310,000 Euros is for "reconstruction of a fence-construction", while the fence designer's fee is 240,000 Euros.
By comparison, the city last year spent considerably less, 800,000 Euros altogether, for the revamp of two other bridges in the central area, both of which are larger and longer than the one currently in question.
The bridge revamp is part of a wider government-funded project, Skopje 2014, that aims to give the neglected, grey-looking centre of the Macedonian capital a more monumental appearance.
|Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic|
Drawing inspiration from the architectural styles of Classic Antiquity, the project envisages the construction of almost 20 buildings, including, museums, theatres, concert halls, hotels and administrative offices, as well as a large number of large bronze and marble statues.
Critics have highlighted the project's price tag, which, according to some estimates, may be above 500 million Euros. The government, however, has not given out exact figures; bids were launched in 2010.
Critics say that Macedonia, a small country that has to contend with widespread poverty, with a population of just 2.1 million and an unemployment rate of more than 30 percent, should be spending limited resources differently.
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