AIM: start

THU, 08 NOV 2001 22:36:11 GMT

The Intricacies of Economic Platforms

AIM Pristina, October 23, 2001

It is obvious that ethnic Albanian political parties are convinced their supporters know little about economics. This is the main reason why their economic platforms, specially prepared for the election campaign, use very simple language. Their approach towards economics is very low level, and their projects deal with farms, cattle raising and vegetable growing, preparing traditional beverages and food, and similar, leaving aside many crucial problems Kosovo faces today, such as future economic and ownership relations with Serbia, privatization, employment, and securing investment needed for development.

In all this Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic Alliance of Kosovo is at the forefront. Its platform stresses the construction of small hydroelectric plants rather then speaking of using other energy resources or upgrading existing ones so that they can meet Kosovo's needs. This party ambitiously even mentions "looking into nuclear energy production," and says farmland around Prizren should be used to grow rice "for national promotion." They, however, fail to say how many hectares they plan to turn into swamps, that is, rice fields, or whether climatic conditions fit their plans. There are many other details, such as, "reactivation of the traditional harvest feast, which never had any significance in Kosovo. The party promises it will "pay special attention to breeding Mt. Sar Shepherds and exporting these canines throughout the world; reviving the breeding of forgotten traditional poultry -- ducks, turkeys; promotion of traditional dishes, such as cooked cream with cheese, and dairy delicacies such as clear yogurt and thick milk; refreshments such as milk with snow; production of the medicinal drink Gentiana (brandy with herbs), discovered by the Illyric King Genc... The Democratic Alliance pledges to "build facilities for alternative sources of energy, such as geothermal energy (in the Dukajin Valley), solar energy, and wind energy," but also "research of possibilities for exploitation of natural gas (in the Dukajin Valley and other parts of Kosovo)."

There are appealing ideas in this platform, but they certainly do not fit a moment in which a great percentage of the population of Kosovo lives in extreme poverty, or when even existing tourism facilities, such as Brezovica, are closed...

The Democratic Party of Kosovo headed by Hashim Thaci is somewhat more rational. Its economic platform is not as archaic as Rugova's, but it does abide by tradition. It favors "traditional sectors that could be further developed: the food industry, tourism, textiles and clothing industries, construction and wood processing industry, and other light industry sectors and crafts..."

The third party aspiring to take power in Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosovo seems to have found better experts to prepare its economic platform.

It is more clear and has vision and development prospects, although it also teems with folklore and tradition. "The Alliance will create favorable conditions for the development of family farms, primarily by improving financial conditions, lowering interest rates and extending deadlines for paying off loans, by boosting competition among banks and other financial institutions and by creating a network that would offer support, consulting, and professional support," says the platform's introductory part.

The Alliance also promises support to farmers running family estates that will produce fruit and vegetables for the market. It will back cattle raising as well, by giving subsidies for milk production and back investment in dairy products intended for the domestic and foreign markets.

On the other hand, the treatment of crucial problems faced by Kosovo is superficial, probably because of lack of will or lack of courage to come to grips with the essence of these problems. The party announces "the creation of a macroeconomic policy for Kosovo, an open, free market economy, the strengthening and boosting of the private sector, gradual privatization of state capital and the forming of a privatization agency." As far as disputed companies are concerned -- communally-owned companies which UNMIK says have unclear ownership, the largest political party in Kosovo promises "the strengthening and development of the private sector in industry. Medium industrial facilities in Kosovo will be gradually privatized. Large industrial complexes such as Trepca, Feronikl, Karacevo will be gradually activated. New thermal power facilities using coal will be constructed and existing ones will be overhauled (Kosovo has 15 billion tons in coal reserves). New small dams will be constructed on Kosovo's mountain rivers. Electricity will be exported. The party plans to reopen mines that are part of the Trepca, Feronikl, Karacevo, Magura, Gremnik, and other complexes, which have tons and tons of mineral reserves. The mines will be modernized and their safety standards upgraded. Reserves of other ores will be investigated, and all natural resources exploited rationally..."

The Democratic Party of Kosovo wants the former Yugoslav succession process to end, and believes that Kosovo should also participate in partition of the former federation's assets and other property. "The party will insist that Kosovo, as a former unit of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, also take part in succession and be granted its portion of the assets," says the party platform. It further aspires to make Kosovo a part of European institutions, such as South Eastern Europe Stability Pact... "The Democratic Party of Kosovo will do all in its power to eliminate damage done by the war and remove the economic backwardness separating Kosovo from the rest of Europe," the platform adds. According to the party, privatization will be just, transparent, and fully monitored by bodies formed for that purpose. The party will make sure that it proceeds cautiously, transparently and justly, with quality and good effects. The party will support privatization via loans and other means. Private property will be protected by the law." Transformation of communal property into private property will be carried out in accordance with the strategy of democratization through a Kosovo privatization agency that will monitor the process. "Public property will be divided into national and local resources, and in accordance with that, the responsibilities of pertinent institutions will be determined."

The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo promises "transition from an economy totally dependant on foreign donations into a stable and developed economy;" it envisages "deblocking the process of privatization of communal property." "Communal companies have always belonged to Kosovo and Kosovo should draft a program for a comprehensive privatization strategy," the platform says. To attain that goal the Alliance first plans to form a privatization agency. The party says the privatization process will be realized speedily with a monitoring program and transparency to eliminate corruption. "The Alliance believes that simultaneously with the growth of economic activities Kosovo can achieve budgetary independence in the next three to five years, together with improving tax policy and eliminating tax evasion." The Alliance pledges to pass a bill on the status of families of fallen and disabled war veterans at the first session of the new Kosovo parliament," the platform says.

The impression is that the economic platforms of the largest Kosovo political parties are mere lists of roughly outlined ideas of how crucial economic problems ought to be solved. What is worse than the lack of inventiveness and excess of vague goals present in them, however, is their inclination towards a so-called directed economy, a concept well-known from the communist era. In other words, no platform mentions any clear boundaries keeping politicians away from meddling in the economy. And this is not a good sign for Kosovo's economic future.

Ibrahim Rexhepi