Rebuilding Depends On People, Mix Of Public And Private
Dec. 12, 1995
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnia-Herzegovina is awash in depressing figures. It is $2 billion in debt, devastated by 3 1/2 years of war and 1.3 million of its citizens are refugees awaiting resettlement.
But unlike Somalia or Rwanda, it has a key resource for reconstruction: skilled people who want to go back to work.
President Clinton says the NATO mission to police Bosnia's peace agreement is designed to give Bosnians ``a taste of ordinary life again.'' The success of the mission hinges on how many people can resume that ordinary life.
That will be difficult for legions of refugees, many of whom fear returning to hometowns on the other side of lines that will continue to divide the country into areas under Serb or joint Muslim-Croat control.
Many that return will find their homes no longer exist. Others will find that new families have moved in and taken their place.
What happens next is largely a matter of the prevailing mood in the new country. If all goes well, refugees will take the risk of returning home _ then work to begin again. It is unlikely two antagonistic administrations will find it easy to work together, and private enterprise will be essential.
The government and aid agencies have been planning for a year to start putting at least part of the economy and infrastructure of Bosnia's 4.3 million people back together.
Although major aid and investment for reconstruction will not be available until after the Bosnia peace agreement is signed Thursday in Paris, the World Bank and the Bosnian government have estimated the cost of reconstruction at $5 billion for the entire nation, including the 49 percent going to a Serb entity within the larger republic.
The estimated cost for the Bosnian-Croat federation, the more accessible area for foreign agencies, is $3.7 billion.
The 15-nation European Union is hosting a conference in Brussels Dec. 20-21 to raise an initial $518 million to launch reconstruction, and the World Bank says it will provide $600 million to jump-start the economy.
Combining public and private enterprise in a country accustomed to central planning will be a major challenge.
``Think of something like the Tennessee Valley Authority that the United States created during the Depression,'' said Sead Kreso, head of the Bosnian government's reconstruction and development agency, a 41-year-old economist who has also served as Bosnian finance minister.
``It was a public undertaking, but it used private enterprise to put people back to work,'' he said, adding that this combination is necessary to rebuild bridges, railroads and highways.
Prior to independence in April 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina was the most heavily industrialized of the former Yugoslavia's six republics. It had steel mills, coal mines and wood-working and metal industries. It was the home to Yugoslavia's military factories.
The University of Sarajevo turned out thousands of engineers. And the state ran it all.
Most of those thinking seriously about the reconstruction of Bosnia are convinced that the public-private issue is at the heart of how well reconstruction will work.
Since the first serious cease-fire in mid-1994, hundreds of small shops and cafes have sprouted throughout most of Bosnia.
But what about Sarajevo's central bakery and those in other towns throughout Bosnia that were a fixture of the prewar economy? During the war, with flour, yeast and fuel donated by the international community, their bread kept people alive.
How they were managed was irrelevant then, said Marc Defourneaux, a former French army general who has been working on a special U.N. project to restore essential services to Sarajevo.
``But in the next months it will be relevant to ask whether we should go on keeping the central bakery or encourage individual initiative,'' Defourneaux said. ``Are we ready for that? Are they ready for that?''
Muhamed Sehercehajic, a 62-year-old engineer who enlisted in the Bosnian army with a homemade gun and set up a rabbit ranch to provide his family and neighbors with meat, runs a small construction and services company with his son. It already is helping rebuild Sarajevo's Kosevo Hospital.
In 1984, Sehercehajic worked on projects for Sarajevo's Winter Olympics.
``Then, we worked on the facade, to make Sarajevo and Bosnia look good to the world,'' he said. ``Now, we have to carry out the modernization that wasn't done before. The facade will have to wait.''