While Serbian citizens are preoccupied with bare survival, the country's media and politicians focus on the need to extradite individuals wanted by the Hague tribunal. A few days ago, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica announced he would not put up with people like Mladic, who is accused of committing atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the civil war in the nineties. Kostunica said: “Nobody will be above Serbian interests, even if his name is Ratko Mladic.”
It gets even worse as light entertainment is widely offered throughout the mass media. Brainless questions aimed at “intriguing” the minds of society members are offered, for example, by a Serbian daily newspaper Blic: the paper is choosing a fantasy Women Government by letting readers vote via their mobile phones. Blic writes that 29,583 individuals have taken part in the vote. They interviewed each lucky lady winner of the 21 elected to lead various government ministries. Bombarded by trivial issues, Serbs are forced to watch politicians acting as entertainment stars in prime time TV shows, talking about serious topics and answering diary-type questions.
In his B92 blog, Dejan Bizinger writes (SER) about the vital statistics depicting Serbian economic suffering:
There are around one million unemployed people in Serbia. The country’s average salary is just 240 euro per month. More than 90 percent of its citizens have never flown an airplane and there is a huge percentage of those who've never crossed a border. A great number of people who do work are not officially registered, so they often don’t get health and social insurance. They are all left to mercy of their boss: the so-called “Serbian entrepreneur.” Pay is often barely enough for basic needs including food and bills. There is absolutely no way for them to get a mortgage from a bank to buy a car. Let alone affording a flat. Of course, the other Serbia exists as well. Some members of high class live better than many rich people in the West.
At the Profinovinari discussion board, user Vanillasky presents the worries of ordinary Serbian people – people like Dragan Pavlovic:
[...] He was laid off in 2002 from a car factory in a predominantly working-class city of Kragujevac. The massive layoff affected a few thousand workers in a government effort to find a strategic partner and recover the Serbian auto industry. As he is packing up to give his unemployment center a visit, Dragan says:
“Until then nothing changed. Management stayed more or less the same, trying to find mechanisms to raise their salaries. They traveled everywhere around the world to find strategic investor but I believe they were not trying hard enough, knowing that if a private owner comes in, their positions may come at risk.”
In the meantime, Romanian car factory Dacia started producing Renault vehicles. The French wanted to have a low-price car, targeting undeveloped markets of Europe and North Africa.
At the unemployment center counter, Milica is waiting to sign another two-year contract providing her with pension benefits and a small monthly pay.
“They made at least ten announcements, saying contract-signing with foreign corporation is coming closer. However, the only thing they did is a deal to produce old model of Fiat’s punto. Of course I could not get employment then. I am a 50-year-old engineer holding a university degree and the only place I can find a job is at a fast food restaurant. Think how humiliated I would feel after 30 years of work at the office to start flipping burgers at some local shop.”
The national economy is brought down by the government's tactics to implement a strong national currency policy. Says Drakulic, owner of the “Jug Point” company, one of Serbia's biggest exporters:
“Everybody sees that the country’s export-trade deficit will be more than seven billion dollars! This government has to find mechanisms to stimulate exporters. On the contrary, what they do is stimulate import. I think this is a forced measure because ministry of finance is trying to prove it can keep one-digit inflation this year. It is better to have higher inflation if it helps the economy growth overall.”
Mark Pullen, a British expatriate in Serbia, blogs out his view of Serbian workers:
So, Serbian people are idle, unmotivated workers who are quick to quit their jobs and slow to bother seeking a new one that doesn’t come directly from a friend or family member, and doesn’t come with assurances of long coffee breaks and little professional responsibility. But, then again, who can blame them for being lazy? Would you commit your heart and soul (and coffee-drinking time) to a company for 200 euros a month, when grandma’s death will bring you a flat that you can rent out for 300 euros a month without lifting a finger? Or Would you work 9-5 six days a week in a private firm for a nasty boss for 250 euros a month when you could ‘work’ (pick you nose) from 10-4ish (depending on packing away time) in an easygoing (unviable but kept artificially afloat to keep voters happy) state firm for 180 euros a month?
In the UK we say: “If you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys.” In Serbia we could say: “If you pay peanuts, even the monkeys will quit.”
The irony is that Serbian people are crying out to be able to get mortgages and loans that will allow them to move out of their parents’ houses before they turn 40, and by that same token they are crying out for the kind of financial responsibility that will see them become voluntary slaves to their companies; living in fear of losing their jobs.
Misha replies to this entry by observing the labor compensation issue:
Just the other day, a friend of mine complained of not being able to attract skilled and dedicated workforce for his Belgrade office. When asked how much he offered to pay, we came to this wonderful and true wisdom on monkeys and peanuts. Would be wonderful to find out what makes employers believe the workers would flock to their offices and eventually die there working uncompensated? As in any other trade, market laws apply – you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. To get a lion or a tiger, one would have to serve some tastier fare.
Mark Pullen answers him with a concern about the quality of the country's high-ranking officials:
I just worry how high up the food chain the monkeys are operating. How well paid are the country's ministerial officials, police and judges? Are they being paid peanuts and, if so, are they all monkeys?