How Do Other Croatian Cities Compare to Zagreb’s 29 Social Programmes?

Lauren Simmonds

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Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

As Marina Klepo/Novac writes, stabilising the capital city’s finances will be difficult without interfering with the acquired rights and expenditures planned by the former government in the amount of 12.8 billion kuna. As salaries and material expenditures make up almost 70 percent of the city’s budget, it’s understandable that the greatest savings can be achieved here. However, other items are not negligible, including compensation to citizens, for which Zagreb is particularly famous when compared to other Croatian cities.

In a statement about social sensitivity, Zagreb’s city authorities state that in the 2021-2025 strategy, Zagreb has as many as 29 social protection programmes, which is “significantly higher than the average for cities or larger cities”. According to European Union (EU) survey carried out on social programmes in the country, Croatian cities have an average of 7.9 programmes and municipalities have around 4.8.

As such, Zagreb accounts for about 56 percent of all costs of local social protection units, with special emphasis placed on care for pensioners, people with disabilities, children and families. However, of all the programmes, the most expensive is the one intended for parents-educators, which was used by 4,767 people in Zagreb last year and amounted to 4,912 kuna.

It accounts for more than half of all expenditures for social services in the total amount of 877 million kuna. The most numerous are the beneficiaries of the ZET ticket exemption, standing at the high figure of 63,858, followed by disability allowance (14,288) and retirement benefits (7062).

Experts have long warned of the essence of one problem: that residents of wealthier communities should not enjoy greater social protection than those in less developed areas of the country. In the analytical basis for the National Development Strategy until 2030, the World Bank recalls the problem of double inequality, both in an economic and social sense.

In order to improve the system, a number of recommendations has been given. Although decentralisation of the system is desirable because it allows for greater proximity to benefit beneficiaries, equitable regional accessibility would imply a precise assessment of available resources at all levels of government and a clear setting of priorities. This, in turn, implies the designation of services and persons at the city, county and state levels who would continuously exchange relevant data, so that social benefits are received by those who really need them, according to harmonised criteria.

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