Croatian City Following Digital Estonia and Denmark’s Fine Example

Lauren Simmonds

How can not only the budget but the administrative mess in Croatia be overturned and managed rationally and sparingly so that it works for everyone, without us having to go to Estonia or Denmark? Believe it or not, there are some good examples in our own backyard. One Croatian city in particular is leading the way to change that is so desperately needed in this paperwork, tax stamp and queue loving little country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 15th of October, 2019, the continental Croatian city of Bjelovar saved one and a half million on the salaries of its employees last year, and they plan to save a further 2.5 million kuna this year.

We’ve rrpoted on Bjelovar’s impressive and encouraging digital moves several times before, and now they are also working on the full digitisation of the city administration, making it the first Croatian paperless city. This small Croatian city also has a plan to make all entrepreneurs totally exempt from all taxes, levies and contributions, so as to encourage more people in that direction. Mayor Dario Hrebak, revealed to RTL Direkt the secret of the successful functioning of something that the majority in draconian Croatia cannot begin to comprehend.

“We reduced the wage bill by 1,150 million kuna. Today, there are ten less people working because they’ve retired. We digitised fifteen workflows, and we’re planning for eighty. So, we balanced the work out with the people who stayed. We saved 1.5 million kuna. Maybe ten employees doesn’t sound like much, but that’s more than 10 percent in our city administration,” explained Mayor Hrebak.

He added that in the City of Bjelovar they want to do more with the same amount of money because the modern economy cannot be based on such old and outdates systems. Ironically the ones Croatia loves and masochistically clings to so much despite all.

“People in Croatia have a wrong perception of digitisation. How much you save on toner and paper. We want to rationalise it all, we’re standardising the processes. We’ve introduced an e-newborn system so that when a child is born, an e-citizen can collect all the documents and send them digitally to the city government,” the mayor said. Such a move might not sound like much to those outside of Croatia, where the majority of paperwork is done online, but in the land of lining up for hours to be abused by an uljhe… sorry, I mean ”civil servant”, and told you’re missing meaningless papers, this is a revalation.

Several similar processes are planned by the end of the year, which include enrolling children in kindergartens or applying for grants. Entrepreneurs will also be able to look online at the status of a building permit or similar permits for which they have applied.

“In Croatia, everyone wants to solve the problems that have been piling up for thirty years overnight. In Bjelovar in particular, for eighteen years, nobody dared to touch the surtax. Nothing gets altered overnight. We have now taken it down by 25 percent, by the end of our term, we will have no surtax in the city,” Hrebak told RTL Direkt proudly.

He said that everyone needed the political will to see this through. He believes that total transparency is important and that every citizen must know where each kuna from the city goes. He added that politicians today have no vision and plan everything for one term, while he intends to hold at least two terms in office in this small but smart Croatian city.

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