Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 3
24 January 2000

E X - Y U G O S L A V I A:
Unequal Fates
The wide difference in wealth between the ex-Yugoslav republics

Zhidas Daskalovski

Today, the people once united in the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia are citizens of five, or if one counts Kosovo as a separate unit, six new entities. Ten years after Tito's Yugoslavia began its disintegration and "Communism" was replaced by multiparty systems, former Yugoslavs, from Ljubljana to Sarajevo to Skopje, have developed very different lifestyles and material conditions.

Thus, while in some of the ex-Yugoslav republics, like Serbia and Montenegro, average monthly salaries continuously decrease, in others, such as Croatia and Slovenia, they regularly increase. In Serbia for example, the average monthly wage in 1994 was DM 102, falling to DM 93.5 in 1995. By 1999, Yugoslav monthly wages had decreased to a miserable DM 82. Even worse, economic experts predict that Serbian monthly salaries will continue to decline in the new year. In sharp contrast to the Serbs, Slovenians earn, on average, DM 1100 per month.

According to a survey done by the Serbian weekly Vreme, there is a great discrepancy between monthly wages and the monthly "basket"(amount spent on necessities for a family of four) in almost all ex-Yugoslav republics. While in Slovenia the average family purse is in the black after purchasing the basket (DM 1100 DM salary to a DM 430 basket of products), in Croatia, however, the average family's salary is less (DM 700 - DM 1350). A similar situation exists in Bosnia/Herzegovina (DM 380 - DM 475 ), and Yugoslavia (DM 83 - DM 187). Macedonia is slightly on the positive side (DM 310 - 301.)

Salaries in Kosovo vary, according to a recent report by AIM, but on average remain as low as DM 150 while the prices are similar to those in Macedonia. In this province, as well as in Macedonia, Bosnia/Herzegovina and to a lesser extent in Croatia, a significant number of young and well-educated people work for international organizations, earning well above the average salary. Consequently, there is a great discrepancy in these countries between the salaries offered through employment in the UN or international human rights missions, and those offered through domestic firms and public companies. Thus, while employment as a driver for UNMIK or an interpreter for Human Rights Watch earns up to DM 700 per month, professors and doctors earn as little as DM 400 per month. Understandably, these types of inequalities affect the social cohesion in the ex-Yugoslav republics.

These differences in destiny also affect those formerly citizens of Yugoslavia as far as the ability to travel is concerned. Slovenians are again in the best situation - they can freely travel anywhere in Europe and US. Croats are a close second; for them, only travel to the Baltics, UK, Russia and from this year, the Scandinavian countries, is visa restricted. Macedonians, on the other hand, can freely travel only to the neighboring states, such as Romania or Bulgaria. In order to visit the US or the other parts of Europe, they need to go through a long and painfully complicated process of obtaining a visa. The citizens of Bosnia/Herzegovina and Yugoslavia share a similar fate. For obvious reasons, among former Yugoslavs, Kosovans are in the worst position as far as the ability to travel is concerned.

All in all, citizens belonging to the different constituent units of what used to be federal Yugoslavia, are experiencing very different fates ten years after the collapse of their common country. While Slovenians enjoy enormous prosperity, travel freely and expect to join the EU, the citizens of the other republics live a very difficult life. For the Croats, Serbs, Bosnians and Kosovans, this is a direct result of the decisions of their leaders. The situation in which Macedonians find themselves today, however, is much related to the (mis)deeds of the international community.

Zhidas Daskalovski, 24 January 2000



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