April 6, 2020 – What do North Korea and the mighty State of Uhljebistan in Croatia have in common in the Corona Era?
(Disclaimer: in these unusual times, it should be pointed out that this is a satirical piece about the mythical – but sadly real – State of Uhljebistan in Croatia. There is no suggestion coronavirus does not have the same effect in North Korea as elsewhere. It should also be noted that Croatia is doing an excellent job battling COVID-19.)
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard or read the phrases ‘things will never be the same again’ or ‘the world has changed forever’ in the last month.
And, if we look around at all the horror of the deadly pandemic, the economic screeching to a halt and – not much talked about yet, but it will possibly be the biggest effect of all – the mental health crisis which is already unfolding in its early stages, it is not hard to agree completely with those statements.
But is it true everywhere in the world?
There is – as always – plenty of speculation of the situation in North Korea, for example, which has not shared any information on the effects of the pandemic there.
In these days of dark humour, the situation in North Korea has led to plenty of memes and other funny images to circulate around the web.
Such as this one, for example, which had a mythical Kim reporting on the daily corona count.
This was sent to be by a friend, and I replied by saying that while it was funny, there might even be an element of truth in it – at least if you believe everything you read in Britain’s largest tabloid, The Sun.
Judge for yourself – here is the original article in The Sun.
But there is one mythical state closer to home which is seemingly impervious to the economic chaos brought on by corona – the Mighty State of Uhlebistan, the state within a state in Croatia, whose trademarks are cronyism, corruption and a bloated public administration. You can learn more about the Mighty State of Uljebistan in this foreign appreciation of this very Croatian way of life.
The numbers may not be entirely accurate on this comparison between Croatia and New York (more than 200,000 Croats have emigrated since it hit the web, for example), but it paints a picture.
New York City – population 8.4 million. One mayor, 5 deputies, 51 city councillors.
Croatia – population 4.2 million. 128 city mayors, 123 deputies, 20 county prefects, 50 deputies, 428 town/village mayors, 480 deputies. Total public officials – 8,354.
Index journalist Marko Repecki took a closer look at today’s reality in this article (Google Translate is your friend) but perhaps the lead photo says enough – one building has been divided into two different administrative units in Dugo Selo.
Glas Poduzetnika (Voice of Entrepreneurs), a newly-founded association to give a voice to the private sector, has reported that 93% of its member businesses will not be able to survive more than three months in the current climate. An estimated 300,000 private sector jobs could be lost and, as you can see above from the Index chart, almost 12,500 jobs had already been lost by the end of the week.
And in the public sector, the playground of the Mighty State of Uhljebistan (Javni Sektor in the chart above)? Not a single job.
The world may be collapsing, with some 6.6 million unemployed in the United States according to recent numbers, for example, but Uhljebistan? It is impervious to crisis, virus-induced or otherwise.
If there is one good thing that could come out of this corona crisis for Croatia, it would be the spreading of the virus of transparency and change in Croatia’s corrupt system. Were that to happen, there would be a considerable upside for the country.
Is it likely to happen? Watch this space, but something will have to give when all the private sector and its payment dues to the Mighty State of Uhljebistan disappear.
But then how many thought that North Korea would still be holding out in the Hermit Kingdom?
I used to work in Somalia, and aid workers used to joke that if there was ever a nuclear war, only two things would survive – cockroaches and Somalis (they are a very tough nation of survivors).
But they would need somewhere to live, and the only place still standing in all likelihood would be the Mighty State of Uhljebistan.
For the latest on the coronavirus crisis in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section.