Given the constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), there are various decisions, measures and solutions appliable in the fight against COVID-19. The entity Republika Srpska (RS) has declared a state of emergency, while the entity of the Federation of BiH (FBiH) and the state of BiH has a state of natural disaster, and the Brcko District (BD) has issued a decision declaring the population at risk of an epidemic.
The BiH constitution, as defined by the Dayton Peace Agreement, did not deal with the declaration of a state of emergency. Only the High Representative (OHR) can declare a state of emergency in BiH. On 16th March 2020, the FBiH Government of the Federation issued a decision declaring a coronavirus accident (COVID – 19). On 2nd April 2020, the RS Entity issued a decision declaring a state of emergency due to the epidemiological situation due to the virus.
Full quarantine has not been introduced in the FBiH entity; a measure of restriction on movement for persons over 65 and under 18 has been applied. The curfew was first introduced from 6 pm and later from 8 pm to 5 am. Educational institutions have ceased to operate and online classes have been organized. A decision was made to ban certain business entities. Shopping centers work part-time. On 24th April 2020, the Civil Protection FBiH decided to abolish the curfew and 14 days quarantine for those entering BiH. Sanitary inspectors receive restricted movement and health surveillance solutions at border crossings and are sent to home isolation, with police monitoring compliance with orders issued. The same decision allows the movement of seniors 65 years of age, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9 am to 1 pm. Movement is permitted for young people under the age of 18, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 pm to 8 pm.
There is still a curfew in the entity of RS from 8 pm to 5 am. Citizens in public areas must observe epidemiological and protective measures: wearing masks, cotton straps or scarves over their mouth and nose, as well as a social distance of at least two meters. In terms of travel, in BiH no official measure, decision or order to ban travel has been issued to nationals abroad. So far, a total of 14,485 samples have been tested.
Currently, there are 1,516 patients in Bosnia and Herzegovina, of whom 628 have recovered and 59 died. BiH lacks medical masks, visors, respirators, tests, disinfectants. The FBiH government has purchased 170,000 tests to detect COVID-19 from South Korea. The European Union, in cooperation with UNDP, financed the procurement and awarded BiH 15,000 visors, 7,500 tests and 80 respirators. The Republic of Hungary donated 200,000 protective masks and 10,000 protective suits.
Caritas from Vienna has donated to the BiH Border Police consisting of 15,000 pieces of protective gloves, gloves, asepsol. Brcko District received 300,000 masks and protective gloves, 2,000 protective suits worth about EUR 200,000, from China. It is important to point out that TMD Company from Gradacac made the first Bosnian respirator. Given that BiH is a small country with an underdeveloped economy, it will wait for answers and solutions that will be reached by major economic powers of the world. The adoption of crisis staffs on the occasion of the COVID-19 pandemic in BiH on the total or partial suspension of business entities has resulted in over 25,000 layoffs. The economy is in crisis. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved BiH loan from the so-called Rapid Finance Instrument to combat the coronavirus pandemic and remedy the economic consequences of EUR 333 million. These funds are still in the account of the Central Bank of BiH because they cannot agree on the allocation of funds within the Council of Ministers BiH.
The World Bank has approved USD 36.2 million aid package for BiH. The FBiH entity has adopted, colloquially called the “Corona Law”, which stipulates: subsidizing contributions for compulsory insurance, suspending default interest, abolishing the advance on income tax, income tax, etc. and establishing a Guarantee Fund. In the RS entity, in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Establishment of an Economic and Health Sector Support Fund, a Local Community and Enterprise Support Fund and a Guarantee Facility to Support Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises borrowing from commercial banks to finance working capital and liquidity.
Economic measures are enacted throughout the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina to subsidize taxes and pay contributions, pay minimum wages and reduce tax burdens. All institutions in BiH at all levels implement the measures of “survival” of the entire economic system. On the other hand, there are not many measures aimed at “surviving” of the entire socio-economic system of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Written by Rusmir Piralić, April 2020.