Republic of Srpska is going through a difficult period the consequences of which would be experienced for several years more but we are far from bankruptcy as the opposition argues so strongly and unjustifiably.
These are the words of Zeljka Cvijanovic, Prime Minister of the Republic of Srpska stated in an interview with "EuroBlic".
More importantly, we are not highly indebted and can service our borrowing commitments as well as our internal obligations. We are again repaying more than we are borrowing what is very important.
Some say Economic Policy for 2015 is very ambitious. Is the Government ready for so many reforms?
I also tend to think it is too ambitious but it is on purpose so. We wanted reforms that would include all sectors. That means adopting or amending 33 laws but all are needed for implemention of those reforms.
Our primary concern is to improve situation in economy. To that end, we identified measures that would unburden economy, improve liquidity and stimulate new investment and new employment. One of the measures would be introducing more order in the system, especially regarding agencies and administrative organizations. This would certainly result in reducing their number. We shall be more brave and determined with regard to the domain of public companies. We want public companies which have positive business balance, which make profit rather than accumulate losses.
Are there going to be personnel changes in public companies?
As I said before, if the ministers can be replaced, I do not see why the directors cannot. The whole management structure must be renewed and be more ambitious than up to now. Very often certain defaults are attributed to the Government whereas people who are responsible for certain areas stay intact and exempt from responsibility, etc.
Why havent't you demonstrated more determination and courage which the public admits you have when you needed to replace unsuccessful directors of public companies and institutions especially those who fulfill conditions for retirement?
As for those who had to be retired I expect the respective institutions to react. However, I partially agree with you that we were not energetic enough and have not brought to an end what we started at one point. I could, of course, justify this with certain unpredictable circumstances that distracted our focus. Therefore, it would definitely be one of those issues that we would deal with more persistently in future. The Government I led nevertheless made steps forward. We requested all directors to make their mandates available so that they understand they are not irreplaceable. This might sound like a phrase but in a year and a half of a mandate one could feel pretty limited even with no floods and no other disturbances as we could only begin and could not finish things within that period of time.
How realistic are requests of the business community to reduce contributions within the package of unburdening of economy?
That is not realistic. Firstly, we have the lowest contribution rates in general. There are requests of business community on one hand and the requirements of social security funds on the other who are not supporting such a move but on the contrary request increment of social contributions. At the moment we are not in a position to consider any reductions but must think about finding new ways of financing that would secure better stability of our Public Funds. That is why we have foreseen some other measures that would unburden economy, cancel certain fees and taxes and have a clearer picture of what businessmen should pay and in how we shall classify fiscal and parafiscal charges in the register so we could see which of those should be reduced or suspended.
How realistic is it to pass the new labor law in 2015?
I am sorry that we never reached the phase when the two most important partners - the trade unions and the business community - would sit down and say which were the issues. I think that many problems related to that law have been fabricated while very few actually understand the point. The Government is committed to help solving the dilemmas between social partners and to modernize the legislation that would be more appropriate for the current times. At the same time, nobody ever thought of diminishing the rights of workers. We want to see workers who would await their salaries with more certainty and at the same time create conditions for the employers to be able to provide jobs.
Coalition partners especially those from DNS are asking that the ministers who do not perform well should be replaced already within a 100 days.
I am glad that somebody said that openly at the time when we were constituting the government. With regard to ministers I have no dilemma, but then we come to the other category, the category of civil servants. Civil servants must uphold to the same level of accountability for their work. We shall change the Law on Civil Servants because they are privileged in many things in relation to other workers in the RS and must therefore give more and be more committed. One cannot be protected and have a guaranteed job only because they belong to that category of labor. Ministers and others who are at most prominent places are most accountable to the public and must be surrounded by staff who are able to keep up with them and to fulfill the objectives defined by the Government. I shall say it openly – there are some who are not following up with the things we should accomplish.
What should a reorganized government look like?
One of options is that Ministry for Refugees and DPS becomes a department of some other Ministry. We would also like associate local self-government and municipal administration with regional development as rather new concept that would foresee regionalization not in the sense of administrative character but in the sense of balanced development of all areas of the Republic of Srpska and creation of conditions for implementation of certain EU projects. In some cases the ministries would become a part of organizational structure of some other ministry, some ministries would be divided and some added. Our Ministry for Economic Relations and Regional Cooperation which is in charge of European integration could get additional dimension and be connected with local level. However, that reorganization would remain for some future time.
What has the police discovered after disclosing that you had been tapped?
I suppose you understand that I cannot comment any detail related to this investigation. I only wish to say that it is absolutely in my interest to obtain all relevant information as soon as possible so we could close the case. The issue of the freedom of media is now very much in focus. Of course that I support freedom of media but this freedom cannot be achieved or exercised by committing criminal offence. We cannot treat freedoms partially in the same way that we cannot comply with the law partially. If the law applies to me as a Prime Minister and a politician, then it should apply to journalists as well.
You are one of few politicians whose name is not associated with corruption affairs?
I owe nothing to any one and no one owes me. Everything I do, I do in a teamwork spirit with my colleagues who in my assessment can keep up with me and work for a joint cause. There are many dirty things in political life and when you look at how it all works, I am even more glad to have my defense mechanisms that allow me to switch off and let others carry their own burden. I have none and have no intention to allow anybody to put any stigma on, those who are comparing themselves with me and my life to point finger at me. It does not apply to me. But all being such, Zeljka Cvijanovic is the only politician to have gone through all those things during the election campaign when nasty words were being shouted at me by those who are now lecturing me that I should apologize because of this or that. Only to see after all that stories about my family life being fabricated. Politics comes along with all those things. It is not easy to be a woman in politics. But when I see how annoying it is to such people, then I get additional strength.