APRIL 19 2010 14:23h
“Our Dear unhappy people, we'd like to do all kinds of things, but we are not allowed by the labor unions, veterans’ organizations, ...“.
If the state has no money, why doesn’t the government simply say: "The Treasury is empty, so the 240,000 state employees and public sector workers cannot get their Christmas bonuses and a gifts for children this year. We know that worker’s unions will not agree with this, so we are not asking for their approval, but only informing them of the Government’s decision. Things have to be this way because we have no other choice!"? If, however, the government is on the verge of bankruptcy as the finance minister says we are, if we are poor as church mice, if the budget has been consistently filled in the first months of the year, and if this year will mark the end of crisis, as our Prime Minister says, why does the Government still requires unions to agreement which denies workers employed in health, education, management ... the rights that were guaranteed by a collective agreement voluntarily signed by the government? Why? Because our Government is playing a big charade in which it wants to simultaneously create the impression of being ready to take painful steps and get an alibi for not taking any of them.
When the Governor Zeljko Rohatinski said that Croatia was still living beyond its means, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said: "All are looking for cuts and changes, but no one wants to agree to have them start from them ..." When, during the past nine months, she was called out for state’s wild expenditures and lack of will to redirect the money into development, she often replied by saying that they should give advice on whom to cut from the budge and that government would do it. Head of State Finances, Ivan Suker, often gave replies in the same tone, as well as other HDZ Ministers... Despite the fact that this was not their intention, their cynical rhetoric exposed all of their helplessness, sorrow and bitterness which devour them from the inside. Government seems to have a bubble hanging over their heads which reads " Our Dear unhappy people, we'd like to do all kinds of things, but we are not allowed by the labor unions, veterans’ organizations, pensioners, farmers, builders ... Hate them, not us! "
Of course, politics may be pursued this way too. However, the responsibility of government is to govern. Kosor won the legitimate election and was given the authority to make decisions – even if they will not be applauded by any of her voters. She must show the willingness to take a risk, even at the cost of losing the elections. If, therefore, the condition of stabilizing the state crisis is saving 600 million kunas on the public sector employees, then the determined government should do so. Without waiting. Without asking for permission. It gets done. Regardless of the consequences. Regardless of the fact that the money is just one drop in the budget of more than one hundred billion.
Our government, however, passed the ball to someone else's court and seeks approval from where it knows that there can be none. The game is tricky. One move creates two favorable marketing outcomes. If the unions agree, they will agree on sharing the responsibilities. In this case, the Government wins. They are together in the good and the bad. If the unions reject the proposal, they will give the government an argument for blaming them for any future problems, allowing them to cite their misunderstanding and intolerable stubbornness as the reasons behind Government’s problems. In this case, the Government will not be victorious, but it will still stay in the game. Unions are becoming the main villains, workers in the public sector parasites, and the government remains sensible and reluctant to force anything on anyone…
While many are discussing whether the exhausted economy can sustain such cumbersome budgetary machinery, they lose sight of the fact that the economy does not depend on the suspension of the Christmas bonuses to teachers, nurses, doctors, maids, or lawyers, but on the willingness and ability of the government and ruling coalition to remove the systemic errors. Painful cuts have been political mantra for years, but they are not implemented. Croatia needs them. However, 600 million in a country which annually consumes about ten billion more than in the previous year can hardly be called a painful cut! But this is obscured as long as the Prime Minister points her finger at unnamed villain who calls for cuts without agreeing to accept them. The image is distorted. Everyone hates everyone. Everyone blames anyone. And they all stand still on the same spot. Perfidious isn’t it?
What should be done? To begin with, one should stop thinking about the next elections. If Jadranka Kosor’s priority is to ensure HDZ’s third consecutive victory and to establish a political quasi-record, then Croatia’s time until the election is already lost. HDZ failed to initiate structural reforms at the beginning of any of their last two terms.
Suker now publicly admits this as he smiles pleasantly, as if he has nothing to do with it, though he has been a minister of finance for the past six years. "We are aware that we have not implemented all the reforms, and now the question is whether we can implement them at all," he says like a repentant witness who is now expecting to receive amnesty. True, it is questionable whether the HDZ can implement the reforms, but they can try if they have the guts. This would, of course, be a high-risk game for them. Elections are too close for the voters to honor this. But, again, those who do not take risks cannot enjoy any of the benefits either. After all, the electoral defeat of one party is insignificant compared to irretrievably lost time in which passive politics or politics of avoiding heavy moves, punishes the entire country.