“All activities in Bosnia & Herzegovina in the past two months have had to do with the state of emergency caused by the crisis, as they will for the foreseeable future,“ says Dino Aganovic, Head of Legal and Compliance at Heta Asset Resolution in Sarajevo. Nonetheless, he says, as dangerous as the virus is, he believes in being cautious about the steps taken to address it. “I must admit that I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to complete shutdowns,“ he says. “The global economy is sliding into a recession that is bound to impact poorer societies in terrible ways. We need to be thinking about the future as well, not just the present.“
Aganovic notes that, although Bosnia & Herzegovina is relatively small, it is nonetheless “so complex a web of different jurisdictions and legislative frameworks, [and with] three and a half million people, living as parts of two entities, with over ten cantons.“ As a result, he says, “sometimes the different approaches to the outbreak yield ridiculous results – like one of the entities having a curfew and the other not, so if you want to go from point A to point B you sometimes have to go around some territories otherwise you’d get a fine!“ Of course, such differences also cause variations in PPE requirements and similar matters.
Aganovic says that a number of economic stimulus measures – so-called “Corona Laws“ – have been enacted. “However, the business sector has not taken to them so well and there are clear signals they were not enough, and that they were ushered into effect too late.“ Bosnia & Herzegovina has negotiated a EUR 330 million loan from the IMF to battle the economic harms of the crisis, but Aganovic reports that there is “a feeling that the loan is only there to secure the income of those working in the public sector – not to put out the fires in the economy country-wide.“
“The pandemic has fully fleshed out the corruption that exists in Bosnia & Herzegovina,“ Aganovic continues, pointing to what he calls the “extremely expensive and non-transparent public procurement“ of respirators that turned out to be “unusable in ICUs.“ In his opinion, that particular story was just the tip of the iceberg. “We have local elections scheduled for October, so the citizens will have an opportunity to try and get their voices heard.“
In the meantime, Aganovic says that “the courts have pretty much been locked down for the past two months, and pieces of legislation of questionable legality, from a constitutional perspective, have been passed to regulate the issues of deadlines for court proceedings by freezing them.“ He sighs. “I think that legal professionals will have their hands full taking care of the mess the crisis has caused. We’re likely to see an increase of NPL transactions as well as a mountain of work in settling contractual and employment disputes, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the country itself sued more than a few times.“