News 23 Mar 12

Bosnia Minister Tells Striking Ex-Soldiers to Wait

Finance minister says authorities cannot deal with pension demands of around a thousand ex-soldiers until the state budget has been set.

Elvira Jukic

Bosnian Finance Nikola Spiric said the state goverment had been unable to solve the ex-fighters' demand as the budget for 2012 was still not ready.

Around a thousand former soldiers have been protesting in front of the government building since Wednesday with some staging a hunger strike.

Spiric said the next session of the Council of Minister, whose date is not set, will have a budget draft ready, after which the authorities will be in a better position to reimburse the former soldiers.

He said he understood why they were striking in demand for their pensions, but at the moment, until the budget is complete, the Finance Ministry can make no moves.

Spiric recalled that the Council of Ministers did not support the law that allowed soldiers over 35 to take early retirement in exchange for pensions in 2010 when it was adopted by the State Parliament.

It was obvious even then that the measure could not be implemented due to lack of money for such purposes, he remarked.

“That law was bad and unethical and its implementation could lead Bosnia into [financial] anarchy,” Spiric said.

He suggested that the law should be scrapped before more debts pile up, stating that the country may not easily find money to pay pensions to thousands of newcomers in their thirties.

The country currently owes some 15 million euro to more than 1,500 early retired soldiers and Spiric has suggested there may be a way to pay their pensions, while abolishing the law so that there are no more young ex-military pensioners.

“By the time those 1,750 former soldiers move onto old-age pensions the country will have  had to find some 150 million euro,” Spiric said. "I wonder who will provide the money.”

Spiric said Bosnia needed reforms and not implementation of bad laws that were adopted at the behest of lawmakers hunting for votes at elections.

Bosnian officials adopted a Global Fiscal Framework for 2012-14 on March 14, which lays the basis for a state budget. The state currently runs its institutions on temporary financing.

The Global Fiscal Framework defined that the budget would be some worth 486 million euro. It must now be finalized and adopted by the Council of Ministers.

Spiric said the budget draft plans to lower officials' salaries, which could save some 20 million euro.

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