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23 Jun 17

Miracle of ‘First Clean Tram’ Highlights Bosnia’s Absurdity

Srecko Latal

The fact that Bosnian officials believe cleaning a tram is a newsworthy event shows how far they have lost touch with reality.

Sarajevo. Photo: Milan Suvajac/Wikimedia

Journalists in Sarajevo were perplexed on Thursday when they received a media advisory from the capital’s infamous city transportation company, GRAS, inviting them to cover the official presentation of a clean tram.

The invitation was not fake news or joke - unfortunately. It was linked to GRAS's similarly awkward press release from June 15, which announced that the action of “cleaning public transportation vehicles is ongoing”.

After undertaking this ground-breaking operation for a full week, the city transportation company proudly invited journalists to take stock of the results.

On this occasion, company and city officials told media that 50 vehicles had been thoroughly cleaned in “record time”, stressing that such work usually takes “months”.

They used the same opportunity to announce that GRAS in the near future would be overhauled - adding that all these efforts would, however, mean an increase in the price of tickets for city transportation.

“GRAS cleaned trams and invited media to record ‘the miracle,’” regional N1 TV station reported, not without a hint of irony.

While the umpteenth city government struggles to resolve the status of Sarajevo's city transportation company - one of the biggest “black holes” in Bosnia - which in the past two decades has swallowed, channelled and re-directed into private pockets hundreds of millions of euros accrued through donations, budget funds or tram or bus tickets, all the while offering poor and erratic services – the commercial company, Centrotrans, quietly expands its business, offering solid and reliable transportation to citizens.

Meanwhile, the news about Sarajevo’s first “thoroughly cleaned” trams goes to the “Awkward news from Bosnia” drawer, to join numerous other similar stories that make many Bosnians laugh, cry, or want to leave the country.

This same drawer holds news like the one from last November, when officials from the state presidency, Sarajevo Centar municipality and Sarajevo Cantonal Road Administration ceremonially presented a new stretch of sidewalk in front of the Bosnian Presidency building.

Another such news piece in the drawer comes from the town of Doboj, where a new traffic light was proudly unveiled by officials on May 17 2017.

This new “investment”, which officials said they paid a full 60,000 euros for, alas, stopped working less than 24 hours later.    

Unfortunately, the “Awkward news from Bosnia and Herzegovina” drawer is full of many similar stories.

All of them testify to the billions of euros squandered by one Bosnian politician or another, all the while boasting of the “successes” of initiatives which, in any normal country, would bring them nothing but public shame, ridicule, as well as a rapid end to their political careers.

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