“Who is the winner and who is the loser”: Round table in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Banjaluka, 3. March 2015

The first round table for Bosnia and Herzegovina under the title “Who is the winner and who is the loser” was held in Banjaluka on 3 March 2015. The RT was devoted to the issue of Informal Economy and was organized by SSRS as one of the KSBiH constituent – within the regional ITUC/ PERC – LO Norway project “Tackling taxation, informal economy, and corruption in the Western Balkans”.

Trade unions in the fight against the informal economy

In addition to the representatives of ITUC/ PERC and LO Norway , the round table was attended by Deputy of Labor minister of Republic of Serbska with two colleagues from the Ministry, representatives of Labor inspectorate of RS, RS Taxation authority, RS Pension and Disability Fund, RS Healthcare fund, representative of the RS Union of employers, esteemed professor from the School of Economy in Banjaluka, as well as representatives of the most branch trade unions of SSRS, SSRS leadership and expert, president of KSBiH/ SSSBiH from Sarajevo with two experts working in the Project, and a large number of media outlets.

All the participants in the round table received the SSRS document about informal economy, this topic was well presented by the SSRS president Ranka Mišić and SSRS economic expert Božana Radošević, and the subsequent discussion was fruitful. Discussion involved all the representatives of the mentioned ministries, unions of employers, Funds, branch trade unions. Professor from the School of Economy had a particularly good contribution, and he gave good proposals to a more active fight against illegal money circulation that take place within grey economy.

M. Hutsebaut gave his contribution, which was based on direct link between informal economy and taxation policy – in part related to contributions, but he also illustrated some examples how to enhance financial control and prevent unregistered work or payment in cash. T. Hasaas welcomed the participants on behalf of LON, and stated that the informal economy, although in small extent, does exist in Norway, particularly among the migrant workers, that LON is not against migration, but remains firm against their engagement in informal economy.

Participants of the round table together, united around the idea of combat and eradicate the gray economy brought a larger number of conclusions, which will in the coming days be sent to the Government of RS and its other bodies (committees) dealing with the issue of the gray / informal economy.

Press conference continued with a number of participants. Parts of the published press releases follow.

In her interview to media, President of the Confederation of Trade unions of Republika Srpska, Ranka Mišić, pointed that between 15.000 and 18.000 jobs in Republika Srpska are hidden in unpaid overtime of the workers, and also that based on assessments of relevant institutions in BiH, one third of GDP is in the area of “grey economy”.

“That is a large portion of money, which lies in black money flows, that is, this is money which does not arrive to the legally defined places, which constitutes direct stealing from the state”, Mišić said today in Banjaluka at the Round table under the title “Informal economy from the position of trade unions – who is winner and who is loser.”

Presenting the results of several-years-long conducted analysis of event related to “grey economy”, Ms. Mišić pointed out that the frequent phenomenon within “grey economy” today are companies operating without a single registered workers, while they make millions worth results.

“There are also companies, formally incorporated with registered workers, but they do not pay contributions, or healthcare insurance to these workers”, added Mišić.

She said that there are no sufficiently transparent and active institutions that could suppress these negative occurrences.

According to her, every country with ambitions to be stable, which works in the interest of its citizens, has to create conditions suitable for economic development and growth.

First prerequisite for creation of such climate, according to Mišić, is a stable political situation, rule of law, and fighting against corruption.

“As for BiH, we can say that it does not meet any of the preliminary conditions, and thus the grey economy is one of phenomena that destroy stability of BiH. It should not be allowed that BiH, with such a high percentage of unemployment, where one third of GDP lies in hands of grey economy, has 90 multimillionaires. Every year notes a fairly large number of people competing for high positions of the rich people in Europe and the rest of the world”, Mišić pointed out.

She emphasized that the stealing and disregarding laws are the biggest damage for the development of a country and advancing of individuals.

According to her, the goal of today’s round table is to arrive at conclusions that would make integral part of policies, which should be pursued by the Republika Srpska government. It is clear that one of the conclusions, according to Mišić, will advocate the changes in the concept of operation in the labor inspectorate, so that the inspectors can get tools to control the enforcement of applicable laws.

“Role of trade unions is to point at these phenomena, to offer solutions, and to fight that these solutions make part of the Republika Srpska government and the institutions in BiH active policies”, president Mišić said.

Representative of the International Trade Union Confederation, Enisa Salimović, emphasized how important it is to understand that the informal economy takes away large quantities of finances to illegal flows, instead of utilization of these resources in a legal manner within funds and other institutions, which work for the benefit of workers.

Suggesting that no one, but the trade unions, think of this problem, she mentioned that it is also important for workers, including those who are forced to work in black economy for minimum salary just to survive, to understand the extent of damage this has on the entire society.

Representative of Norwegian trade unions, Torgny Hasaas, said that the goal of today’s round table is to assist BiH citizens to achieve a better working life, and that the priority of thee actions is to connect all workers of the Western Balkan, and that his matter gets more attention in media and public.

Reported by: ITUC/ PERC SEE Office Sarajevo