The Kosovo government’s ‘crisis of chairs’

The financial burden of Ramush Haradinaj’s government weighs on the sectors that are in dire need of investments, such as education and healthcare.

A primary school in Fushe Kosove and the governmental cabinet of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj have something in common. They both face a crisis of chairs — having enough for the students regarding the former, and having enough for the governmental cabinet for the latter.

The architects and planners of Behgjet Pacolli’s construction firm could very well be proud of their works at the Russian presidential palace, the Kremlin, the construction of entire luxury neighborhoods in Astana, Kazakhstan, as well as some buildings in Kosovo.

But they failed to foresee one thing.

About 15 years ago, amidst the humdrum of business and politics, Pacolli’s firm inaugurated the newly renovated hall of the Kosovo Assembly, but the ‘defects’ of that renovation were made apparent only this past Saturday.

The planners did not foresee that the government their boss would be a part of would have so many members — deputy prime ministers and ministers — that there would not be enough chairs for everyone while the prime minister presented the ‘resume’ of his governmental program and the debate that followed.

With 21 ministers and five deputy prime ministers — Pacolli being one of them — Ramush Haradinaj’s government is a clear indicator of a ‘flash sale’ for the distribution of the ministries among the PAN coalition’s many partners, with as many as 20 constituents.

There was even the case of a minister who ran a bit late and arrived by the end of the Assembly session, and they had to offer him a simple office chair at an improvised place behind the Assembly’s pulpit, where members of the cabinet sit. For future sessions, he will pray that some colleague of his will be absent so that he can have a dignified and equal place among others.

The nomination of deputy ministers will make the government even more overcrowded, but the government will not have any difficulties in securing wages, cars, chauffeurs, assistants, and chairs for all of them.

But just a couple of kilometers away from the Prime Minister’s office, an over-crowded primary school is struggling to accommodate all of its students returning for the start of the school year.

In the Mihal Grameno Primary School in Fushe Kosove, the municipal authorities and school officials were forced to employ six more teachers without first figuring out a solution for their salaries.

This example shows how policy making in Kosovo is subservient to bureaucracy, in the most brutal sense of the word. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground keeps deteriorating and scarcity increases for even the most basic things. Yet citizens continue to pay their taxes to their elected officials, no matter how impaired the process may be, from the time ballots are cast until the elected MPs raise their hands in the Assembly.

Institutes that monitor governance suggested that an executive branch with no more than 13 ministries would be more than enough for Kosovo.

According to calculations published in a report by GAP Institute, by eliminating six ministries, 2.5 million euros would be saved just within a single four-year governmental mandate.

“… If [Kosovo were to have] only one deputy prime minister post, it would save the budget some 600 thousand euros. Whereas reduction in the number of deputy ministers from 39, the current number, to 13 or 15 such positions, would save the budget approximately 1.2 million euros during a single governmental mandate. In total, just from the ministerial posts and cabinets, an average of 3.6 million euros would be saved for one governmental mandate,” said the report, which was released in 2014.

Such an organisational chart would make the government work more effectively in terms of its internal coordination, and would save the budget millions of euros that could be dedicated to cases such as the one in Fushe Kosove, either by increasing the amount of staff or by improving school infrastructure.

Another realm that urgently needs an increase in investments is healthcare. Patient rooms at the University Clinical Center of Kosovo are worlds away from the governmental offices in Prishtina. Furthermore, the lack of quality healthcare services in Kosovo’s public sector requires Kosovars to spend millions in private clinics throughout neighboring countries, especially Macedonia.

The financial cost of such a big government decreases possibilities for investmentments in fields that need it the most.

A year ago, Ahmet Isufi, a deputy president of Haradinaj’s own party, pejoratively called Isa Mustafa’s governmental cabinet “Chinese” to describe the megalomania of the government, which, for the sake of truth, did employ more people than necessary.

But last Saturday, Haradinaj ushered in a group of deputy prime ministers and ministers bigger than the governmental cabinet that his own party criticized a year ago.  

Ramush Haradinaj might not mind the ‘flash sale’ of the distribution of ministries. But he might recognize this absurdity during the eventual joint meeting of the governments of Kosovo and Albania, where the brigade of 25 cabinet members will face the 15-member team of Edi Rama’s newly appointed government.

The opinions expressed in the opinion section are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.

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