TFF helps Croatia get a US$ 40 million World Bank loan

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 41 – June 30, 1998

Originally published here.

The World Bank last week approved a DEM 74 million (US$40.6 million equivalent) Reconstruction Project for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem Loan for Croatia. The project area is one of the most fertile parts of the Balkans and prior to the war, was known as the “bread basket” of the region. Due to damage to the extensive flood control and drainage system, much of the agricultural land has become unusable. The project will:

1) Repair and rebuild the flood control and drainage facilities;

2) Clear the landmines left behind in the flood control network;

3) Provide for sound and sustainable environmental management of the adjoining nature reserve at Kopacki rit;

4) Rebuild a partially completed wastewater system in one of the major towns in the area.

The World Bank explains that the project is expected to make a major contribution in stimulating the local economy, thereby creating an incentive for people to return home. It is an important contribution to reconstruction and is the result of close cooperation with the Croatian Government, the UN, several bilateral agencies, and numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who provided input on the project’s design.

TFF is one of these NGOs. This is what team leader of the World Bank’s Reconstruction Program for Croatia, Susan Rutledge, wrote to TFF:

“The final project was the result of the hard work of many who provided valuable aid and good counsel to the project team as we prepared the program. Your assistance was particularly helpful at key points in the preparation process and I would like to personally thank you for taking time and trouble to help us in that effort. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.”

TFF director Jan Oberg elaborates, “During one of our missions last year, UN Civil Affairs asked us to answer Susan Rutledge’s questions.The World Bank wanted our judgment as to the security of the region and the prospects of providing returnees with jobs and other development opportunities. We also discussed how a loan could promote peacebuilding and reconciliation. We are proud to have helped Croatia do something vitally important for the citizens of Eastern Slavonia.

But I think the Croatian government must provide much more economic incentive for people in, and potential returnees to, Eastern Slavonia. The region’s Serbs keep on leaving for Serbia, Canada and elsewhere and few Croats see any future prospects in returning. The official argument is that Croatia is a poor, war-devastated country. You certainly see that when visiting Serb-dominated schools and villages and you wonder why there are so few major reconstruction projects in the symbolically important city of Vukovar. But when you see the brand new equipment of the police – who is likely to stop you at about every 20 kilometres throughout the region – when you go shopping in Zagreb or look at Croatia’s military development, it’s looks like a wealthy country.

The international community has neglected Eastern Slavonia. The large and expensive UNTAES mission (which left the region on January 15) created a unique momentum; six months later everyone can see that this has come to a standstill. OSCE does not have the same executive power and the Croatian government neither has the strategy and administrative capacity nor the political will to provide genuine peacebuilding, economic reconstruction and reconciliation.

The loan helps Croatia help itself. It promotes sustainable development, i.e. reconciliation between human beings and Nature. What a wonderful world it would be if there were also a big international organisation that provided funds and expertise for reconciliation between human beings and other human beings. But that remains a dream,” Jan Oberg concludes.

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