There is something of an identikit aspect to peace processes, isn’t there? I mention this only as a result of reading the latest column from the compulsively readable Nebojša Malić at antiwar.com. Even when I disagree with Nebojša, which is regularly, he always has something interesting to say.
So, the latest column derives from Nebojša’s recent visit to his native Bosnia, and his impressions of how the place has changed. For a start:
The war’s physical scars in Sarajevo have mostly healed. Several burned-out buildings still remain, but the rest have been repaired and renovated. The city actually looks better today than even in 1984, when it last received a facelift for the Winter Olympics. Old Austrian-era buildings, gone drab with soot and smog over the course of the 20th century, now sport light ochre, burgundy, beige and even green facades. Communist-built public housing in western parts of the city, once depressingly concrete-gray, now sports cheerful blues, greens, yellows and reds.
Yeah, our own urban regeneration is a bit like that. Nebojša continues:
And yet, only the buildings are cheerful. The people grumble. Work is scarce. Those who do work are sucked dry by a myriad of taxes and fees, levied to support a gargantuan bureaucracy. Bosnia-Herzegovina has more government officials per capita than anyplace else on the planet. And after paying all the local, provincial and entity taxes, Bosnians pay a crushing 17% VAT on everything they buy.
Hmm. Definitely something there for the peace studies curriculum. Go on…
Shiny stores filled with expensive goods line Sarajevo’s main streets, but there are few shoppers inside, and fewer buyers. The only burgeoning businesses are cafes, bars and eateries. There is never enough capital for entrepreneurs, but there is somehow always plenty of money for new mosques, or inflammatory war memorials.
Substitute murals for mosques, and you could almost be in Norn Iron. But what I like best is Nebojša’s description of the Bosnian parliament:
To make matters worse, occasional live TV coverage of the Parliament looks like a lowbrow reality show. Many of the legislators can’t string together a coherent sentence. Others communicate strictly through callous insults and outright slander. Diatribes and rants are common. There are a few honorable exceptions to the cesspool that is the Bosnian Parliament, but their presence only underscores the general rot.
Can we twin these guys with Stormont?