Croatia’s 10 Year Challenge: What Has Changed Since 2009?

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In recent days, many users of Facebook and other social networks have been sharing their photos from 10 years ago and nowadays, comparing what has changed in the meantime. Journalists have decided to do the 10 Year Challenge for Croatia as well and see what has happened in and with Croatia in the meantime, reports on January 19, 2019.

Ten years ago, in 2009, Croatian Prime Minister was Ivo Sanader (tried for several cases of corruption; spent time in prison), while President was Stjepan Mesić (still alive and well; in political retirement). That was a turbulent political year, in which Sanader suddenly resigned, without giving a convincing explanation, with his deputy Jadranka Kosor (lost elections in 2011; removed as HDZ president soon after that; now a retiree and prolific Tweeter user) taking over the government on 1 July 2009.

It is nice to remember some of the better-known politicians who were ministers at the time. Some have since disappeared from politics, some have been convicted of various corruption crimes, and some are still active today. For example, in the Sanader government, the regional development minister was Petar Čobanković (convicted of corruption, instead of going to prison he spent some time peeling potatoes as community service). Interior Minister was Tomislav Karamarko (elected as HDZ president; became deputy prime minister; resigned due to a scandal; thinking about returning to politics), transportation minister was Božidar Kalmeta (tried for corruption), while today’s Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandroković was foreign minister. Darko Milinović, recently thrown out of HDZ, was health minister. Croatia was not yet a member of the European Union but was admitted to NATO that year.

In the last ten years, Croatia has lost many of its inhabitants. The six-year recession has left a profound mark on the economy, and it has also created a sense of doom, prompting a wave of emigration. The scale of the population decline is best seen by the fact that in the 2018/2019 school year there are six schools which have been closed because they were left with no students, while 117 schools saw not a single new student being enrolled.

The estimates of the State Bureau for Statistics for 2017 give a figure of 4.1 million inhabitants, which is about 200,000 less than in 2007 when 4.3 million people lived in Croatia. Given that there is no data for the current year, and the latest official data is for 2017, for comparison purposes the journalists have analysed the decade from 2007 to 2017.

In addition to the number of inhabitants, the number of employed fell from 1.517 million in 2007 to 1.407 million in 2017. It was even less at various points in the last ten years. As the number of employees fell, the number of pensioners rose, which jeopardises the retirement system because salary contributions of current workers fund the pensions of existing retirees. Thus, in 2007, the number of retirees was 1.11 million, while in 2017 the number rose to 1.23 million.

As for the public debt, in 2007 it amounted to 120 billion kuna, while by the end of 2017 it had exploded to 283.3 billion kuna.

There was also a rise in public spending. If we add to the state budget the expenditures of the Croatian Health Insurance Institute, public spending amounted to 111.1 billion kuna in 2007 and reached 146.1 billion kuna billion in 2017.

Basically, in ten years almost everything that was supposed to grow fell, and all that was supposed to drop increased instead.

More news on Croatian politics can be found in our special section.

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