Every last friday of the month cyclist in Belgrade get together in the centrer at republic Square to make a bike tour through the city centre. Apart from showing that cyclist deserve a place on the street, it is great fun. When in Belgrade, please join!
I’m not an economist. I studied sociology and international relations and now I’m just an owner of a small company that provides bicycle tours through Belgrade. Which I must say is a great job!
Still I can’t help looking around me with a sociological perspective. Actually we learned at university, all great economics are sociologists (look at Karl Marx or Adam Smith), no matter what the economists say! So, let me try to write down some sensible economical thought
Looking around me while hearing the news about the current Euro-crisis and the situation in Greece, made me wonder about Serbia. Having dealt with so many crises before people here don’t seem to worry too much. Most people have lived through the extreme hyperinflation of the 1990’s, when in 15 months time prices increased by 5.000.000.000.000.000 % (that is 5 quadrillion %). If you want to imagine how much that is, just take a look at your bank-account and shift the decimal 17 places to the left and think of what you have left to buy stuff with… You don’t have to be an economist to understand that the current Euro-crisis is peanuts compared with that.
But having lived through one of the world’s worst hyper-inflations does not necessarily mean you don’t have to worry at all for the next crises. As a sociologist I don’t know too much about the dynamics that caused the crisis in Greece. Instead, I read the stories of people that are affected by it to comprehend all of it a bit better. One of the key problems seems to be that the Greek government simply spends too much public money and has too many civil servants.
I think that everybody knew that years ago already. And the same is true for Serbia. For years I have been asking people here why Serbia needs 250 members of parliament. For a country with 7.300.000 people that means every MP (member of parliament) represents just 30.000 people. I did some calculations, and came with the following ratio of people per MP in the following countries:
The Netherlands: 113.000
United States (including the senate!): 584.000
Does this mean that Serbia is 4 times more democratic then Germany? And even 20 times more then the United States? I don’t think so. I think it means Serbia is wasting too much money on its politicians. Even more then Greece which has 37.000 people per MP!
Well, at least Serbia can always point to its neighbours to proof that it is actually pretty efficient. Macedonia need 2 times more MP’s per citizen (15.800) and in Montenegro you can get in parliament if you just ask your family, friends and some of your Facebook-fans to vote for you, since you have to represent only 7.700 people.
I could complain and go protesting to have 150 parliamentarians less. I could, like most of the people here put up with it and continue with my life. Or, I could use it for my own benefit, like most of the parliamentarians probably do…
Last week it was measured that 16.000 bikers used a certain bicycle-path in Belgrade in 20 days. If I could get all of them to vote for a pro-bicycling-party, together with a few people from Novi Sad, the biking capital of Serbia, I could easily win a seat in parliament. I would go there every day by bike, which saves money of a car and a driver, and use my salary to promote biking. I would lobby for more bikes and less cars, which is better for everybody in Serbia. This way I will help to prevent a Greek situation in Serbia by saving out on at least some costs for parliament.
And if I can’t prevent a crisis, at least more people will ride a bike, which is the best way of transport might we all run out of money.