Lately all the media in Kosovo and neighboring countries (who report on Kosovo) are boomed with the news that Kosovars are trying all the ways to migrate illegally wherever is possible (mainly European countries).
On the other hand you see politicians asking people not to migrate; they have even organized actions to stop busses travelling in Serbia (from where Kosovars pass illegally to Hungary and then anywhere), but still nothing is changing, still every-night tens of busses are travelling towards Serbia and then God knows where. You hear people spending thousands of Euros just to be able to go somewhere else to live, somewhere they would survive.
Did I ever tell you that 45% of the population of Kosovo is considered to be poor? –Yes, that sadly true. Slow growth, low incomes and tight expenditure constrains are among the few factors that lead to such a large percentage of poverty. Estimates are showing that around 17% of the population is considered as extremely poor, living with less than 1 €/day. Compared to other neighboring countries, poverty rates are very high. While other countries of Southern Europe have been growing faster, Kosovo’s economic growth in the past decade has been solid.
We declared independence in 2008, but since 2000 we were living under the UN administration called UNMIK (United Nation Mission in Kosovo), bu neither than nor now anything has changed. Living standards have not improved due to macro-economic conditions which did not improved either. Agriculture contributes a large share of the GDP (1,700 euro). Agriculture, where the majority of population earns their livelihood from, today faces high input costs and poor infrastructure.
On the other hand, social assistance programs are inadequate. Difficult macro-economic conditions create a challenge for balancing huge investment needs and social priorities, especially given a restrictive fiscal rule and conservatism. Due to this many poor people are not protected through public support. Even the social assistance program which exists, due to the tight fiscal space, has low coverage. Besides, even those who benefit from it feel the low benefits level. As such, the program has not resulted in improving the welfare of the population. Social assistance (a money transfer of 61 euro per month per household) is given only to those families meeting strict eligible criteria (none of family members is able to work due to age, disability, etc). Pension system in Kosovo includes all persons over 65, regardless of previous earning and contribution history. The basic pension is 45 euro per month.
While only 15 % of the population receives social assistance benefits, which is targeted at the poorest group, a great portion of population benefits from remittances. Indeed, migration and remittances have been an effective mechanism for reducing poverty in Kosovo. Nearly a quarter of Kosovars have migrated abroad, that is around 400,000 people, and remittances account for 14% in Kosovo’s GDP. Without migration (remittances) poverty would be higher and more widespread especially in rural areas. Although until now migration and remittances were our only left survival tools, today things are worsening in this aspect too. The level of remittances has started to decline rapidly, due to the fact that our Diaspora is integrating in the countries they reside, and the emotional ties with Kosovo are being lost.
Poverty reduction through growth could be achieved only through strategies that lead to high employment-generating growth. Perhaps one of the main pillars for growth could be export, but with so strict fiscal policies and high corruption people are not being able to sell their products in Kosovo, hence exporting them would sound very un-realistic. All markets are filled with imported goods. You may ask me why? – Because importers are sharing their percentages with traders, and our traders finance our politicians, while local producers are struggling for survival.
The high percentage of poor, majority of who live in rural areas, require more attention and a change of government capital investments priorities. Our government should review their investment policies, and how they are spending the national budget, especially with regard to the money spend for the high way constructions these last years, which proved to be non-economical investment. It is the time they focus on real economic growth, and not their personal interests. They got rich enough, this is the last time they can do something to improve the economy, to stop people migrate and save the country.
Kosovo is dying from hunger, from high unemployment, poor health system, poor educational system and you name it, and what our politicians are doing right now is fighting for a position. Elections have been organized in June, and today is December 3rd and we still don’t have established institutions (parliament, prime-minister, ministers). I’m afraid they are not aware that the end of December means the end of salaries for public employees (who account for 70% of the employers); I’m afraid they are not aware they are killing their own people; I’m afraid they are not aware of social problems they might cause; I’m afraid…very afraid.
For you this article might be sad and un-motivating story, but it is even worse for me living in here, struggling every-day with everything you can imagine, and yet fight every day to find a reason to smile, move-on, and not migrate.