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Bosnia looks for $7.4B in foreign investment

Bosnia looks for $7.4B in foreign investment

Hoping to revive an economy that never recovered from the war, Bosnian business leaders began presenting on Tuesday some 157 projects worth over (EURO)5.5 billion ($7.41 billion) to foreign investors at a major two-day conference.
The Sarajevo Business Forum offers over 600 businessmen from mainly Muslim countries and global organizations investment opportunities in the energy sector, food production industry, tourism and infrastructure.
Political leaders like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and leaders from the region will hold a series of meetings at the sidelines of the conference. Spain currently presides over the EU.
The forum "is most probably the single most significant business gathering in Bosnia and the region in recent history," said Haris Silajdzic, a member of the country's collective Presidency and one of the initiators of the conference.
A peace agreement ended Bosnia's 1992-95 war but divided it along ethnic lines and left it with a confusing constitution and an entirely devastated infrastructure and economy. The country needs political stability and foreign investment to get back on its feet.
Even though international donors have sent billions to fix infrastructure, clear mines and repair people's homes, a sustainable return of the 1.8 million refugees was just partially achieved. Many of those who fled the war to other countries never came back because the unemployment rate remains over 40 percent.
Apart from destroyed factories, the ongoing quarrel between the former warring factions _ Christian Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks and Christian Catholic Croats _ is keeping Bosnia's economy behind. The country is divided in two mini-states _ one for the Serbs, the other shared by Bosniaks and Croats. The two are linked by a common government.
The country hopes to join the EU one day but to do so, it has to change its constitution and reduce its administration. There are over 700 state and regional ministers in a country of 3.5 million.
"We do have some political problems but we trust that business activity can bring people together," Silajdzic said at the opening of the conference.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Bosnia is rich in natural resources but emphasized the importance of stability and security.
"Money is like mercury. It goes wherever it feels good and we want it to feel good in Bosnia," he said.
But foreign money so far seems to be respecting the internal division line.
Almost all 157 offered investment projects on Tuesday are located in the Bosniak-Croat region and the majority of the investors come from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait, Libya, Egypt, Malaysia, Jordan, Oman, Croatia, Turkey, Slovakia, and even China.
The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank took part in organizing the event and the Organization of Islamic Conference is a key participant.
The main foreign business partners of the Serb part of Bosnia remain Serbia and Russia.


Updated : 2021-03-05 21:17 GMT+08:00