By Leila Bičakčić
Director, Center for Investigative Reporting, Sarajevo
Just as any global or regional crisis, COVID-19 has been seen in Bosnia and Herzegovina as an opportunity to bring back to the surface some old but overwhelming issues blocking any progress in the country: the lack of transparency and accountability, and a kleptocracy masked in patriotism and care for its “own people.”
Now, more than ever, the need for trustworthy and responsible government that citizens can trust in this time of uncertainty was evident. But it was, again, not served due to petty deals and corruption.
Scandal has stormed through the country over the past several weeks following an investigative article looking behind the purchase of ventilators, which are heavily needed at this moment. The article uncovered how low political leaders are ready to go for their own personal gain despite a proven risk for the health of citizens.
What makes this scandal – and it is far from the biggest that this country experienced – is the outburst of the people when it broke in public. This level of public demand for justice hasn’t been seen in this country for a while. The story raised the issue to the point where prosecutors had no option but to open investigation. The issue pulled on the surface a number of similar businesses taken by governments during the pandemic, all corrupted and wrongful. All these deals were made in the name of care for people, but in essence they were acts of crime that left no one believing that care was the primary goal.
What makes these events positive is that people are waking up. They are not letting this slip from their mind easily. They are not letting those who are elected to do good to be forgiven for being caught stealing. As in any crisis, recovery must bring change.
I choose to believe this global crisis will make people care for each other more, think about social well-being more, and demand better political behavior. After all, the pandemic made it clear to all of us that we have no one to take care of us, but us. It is time to act for our better future.
Leila Bičakčić is the Director of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo. Prior she worked for OSCE, UNICEF and the American Bar Association. A Sarajevo native, she studied physics and economics at the University of Sarajevo.