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Democratic Empowerment and Transnational Threats

Lessons From Covid-19 and Earthquakes: Why Croatia Needs Meritocracy.

The whole world has been significantly impacted for the last several weeks and for the next months to come by Covid-19 (Coronavirus). In dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, Croatia was quite effective. Along with that, in the middle of these challenging times, the situation in Croatia was further complicated by a severe earthquake swarm, which was followed by numerous smaller earthquakes. However, Croatia has been managing to endure the most severe earthquakes in the last 140 years and battle the Corona virus quite successfully with their currently imposed measures.

 However, diving deeper into Croatian politics, it will be visible that this performance cannot be fully labelled as a success. The example of Croatian governance during these times demonstrates a pattern of behaviour Croatian political elites have. Typically, that pattern focuses on removing the original status quo to appear better than they actually are. This is exactly why Croatia is in a desperate need for meritocracy. Because meritocracy focuses on one’s ability and hence, contributes to better outcome of the society, whilst Croatian government prioritises on how it appears rather than having their actions speak for themselves. Instead of changing their actions, the Croatian political elite fix the appearance by shaping a situation that highlights few of their achievements and completely ignores their continuous failures and inflicted damage.

A Successful Reaction

The Croatian Government and its Prime Minister Andrej Plenković created a team of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Davor Božinović, by the Health Care Minister Vili Beroš, and by prof.dr.sc. MD, director of “Dr Fran Mihaljević” University Hospital for Infectious Diseases Alemka Markotić, and the rest to manage Covid-19 crisis. Everyone has been cooperating, managing unpredicted situations, and still being open to feedback and suggestions from the public in order to improve or focus on something they have missed. As for earthquakes, which mostly affected the Croatian Capital Zagreb and its surroundings, they have been handled by the Government as well as Zagreb’s Major Milan Bandić. Having a competent team that brings substantial results and success was the way for the Croatian Government to handle the severe crisis caused by the Coronavirus, and earthquakes.

Inaction

First of all, it is fundamental to notice that Croatia has a long history of dealing with earthquakes. In the latest case, there were three severe earthquakes and numerous small ones, and in total it ended up being around one thousand earthquakes. Zagreb is a region where earthquakes occur quite often, and although being usually non-damaging and unfelt by most citizens, they are not an exception, but rather a daily part of Zagreb and Croatian life. Therefore, although the Croatian Government and Zagreb’s Mayor reacted immediately and properly handle the situation, can we call that a successful and adequate governance?

The European Union (EU) created the Operational programme Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014-2020 (OPCC). Pursuant to the programme, Croatia has had at its disposal 6,881 billion euros, under the condition Croatia co-finances 20%. OPCC envisages a category listed ‘Climate Change and Risk Management’, and in case of Croatia the main risks are earthquakes. This means that pursuant to OPPC, Croatia has had at disposal 245 million euros to invest in minimising the impact of earthquakes. Yet, it only managed to use around 3,35 million euros or little over 1%. OPCC also has given Croatia a chance to invest almost 5 billion euros in its economy, from boosting research, start-ups and overall SMEs, to diversifying its economy. Therefore, it is obvious that Croatian Government and Zagreb’s Mayor have not been done enough. While the Croatian Government and Zagreb’s Mayor may have been successful in reacting to earthquake, it is clear that when it comes to prevention, their performance was quite dissatisfying. A very significant consequence of this inefficiency was highlighted by the issue of evacuation of hospitals, an inefficiency which was made blatant by the hundreds of mothers standing barefoot with new-borns in the streets of Zagreb. Had Croatian Government, Mayors, and ministers acted when the time was right, meaning when there was no threat pushing them to act, the impact of earthquakes would have been enormously lower.

What has been said concerning the earthquakes, holds true for the pandemic. Croatia has had so far successful public measures and as of now has around 2 000 cases, about 1200 recovered, and nearly 70 deaths. That could be considered a success, especially considering Croatia is neighbouring with Italy where the situation has been one of the worst regarding Coronavirus. It still looks like Croatia has not properly prepared for the crisis.

The world has had its fair share of challenges since the first epidemics of SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV). This first case occurred int in 2003, and its origin was assumed to be from bats and it originated from southern China. There was also the swine flu or Pandemic (H1N1) 2009. Moreover, there were epidemics that happened rather recently, but did not necessarily affect Europe such as Ebola virus disease (EVD) and Zika virus.

An adequate and successful government would have taken these previous pandemics as a hint and started preparing. Of course, vaccination for something that does not exist cannot be created. Hence, no one expects from a government to have a developed vaccination the moment a pandemic occurs. Nevertheless, governments should certainly have a plan and should have been taking steps to secure themselves prior to another future obstacle, which should not be surprising if it comes in the form of a virus pandemic. For instance, had the Croatian government used OPPC, the upcoming economic crisis could have been prevented or reduced. In the same vein, had governments learned from these previous crises, the impact of COVID-19 could have been much lower. Now Croatia is fearing severe economic crisis because most of its economy is dependent on tourism meaning the whole countries is dependent on a few months of a year.

What Should Croatian Government Do? Aim For Meritocracy

Croatian Government is an evidence why meritocracy that pushes forward competence and strategic thinking should be the driving force in politics and society overall. The reason why Croatian Government seems successful is because it removes the original status quo and leaves people with choices that favour the government, or at least make them seem better than the rest, in this case the rest of the world.

Had Croatian government and politics been driven by meritocracy and more forward-looking, experts and leaders in charge would have used the funds as well as do everything in their ability to do the best for Croatia and Croatians. Not just to prepare them for potential crisis, but because of the government should always aim at reducing all risks and obstacles as well as maximising potential and opportunities.

It is obvious Croatia has had quite successful reaction. However, a proper governance driven by meritocracy would have been proactive and would have eliminated inaction as its main characteristic of way of governing.

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