by V. ZIVAK-FALADZIC
On the other hand, the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), even though it claims that it is time to conduct a new population census, still does not have a definite response regarding the SNDS initiative to block the joint state institutions budget for 2006.
International community vacillates: Exactly a year ago, in October 2004, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights recommended to the authorities to initiate preparations for a new population census and thereby initiated a bitter debate. Parties from Srpska, just like today, believe it is time to conduct a new population census, while political leaders from Federation B-H want to wait for an undefined period of time, claiming that if a population census were to be conducted now it would give a wrong picture of the population due to non-implementation of Annex 7 of the Dayton Agreement.
The SNSD, following the European plans of B-H, offered a draft Population Census Act which hasn't been adopted until today. Milorad Zivkovic, SNSD representative in the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of B-H recalled in a conversation with Novi Reporter that the SNSD proposed last year that a population census be conducted in 2005.
"We have proposed a draft Population Census Act. However, the proposal has never reached the Parliamentary Assembly and is currently collecting dust in a drawer of the Minister for Civilian Affairs. Its fate is known although the Parliamentary Assembly has demanded that the Council of Ministers of Bosnia-Hercegovina take a stand regarding the proposed law. In practice the proposed law has been blocked in violation of the rules of the Parliamentary Assembly, since according to the rules it was supposed to be debated and amended in the Assembly," Zivkovic emphasized. He also added that the SNSD was convinced that 2005 was ideal for a population census.
"Everyone, including the political parties that represent Bosniaks, is aware how much we need a population census, but the timing is disputed. On the other hand, they are refusing to say what date would be acceptable for them," he added. Zivkovic says that he is dissatisfied that the international community has ignored the SNSD initiative.
"We are forced to frame the issue in this way, but this is not blackmail," says Zivkovic.
Frane Maroevic, spokesperson of the European Commission emphasizes the as far as the European Commission is concerned a population census should be conducted in B-H in 2010. "If a population census is conducted, it should be conducted in 2010 in parallel with censuses conducted by other countries in the region. That is especially important for B-H, since that way data could be compared with data obtained by other countries. It is especially important to keep track of population movements, refugees, to obtain high quality data. A population census is a demanding and complex task that needs to be prepared over several years. In B-H we have a new Statistics Agency and they also need time to prepare for the census," he claims. According to Maroevic B-H currently does not have money to finance the population census.
However, Zivkovic disagrees. "Simply there is no political will to conduct a population census. The international community also lacks the will to push this issue forward. Otherwise, they would have to tell me why Austria-Hungary was able to carry out a population census immediately after the annexation of Bosnia-Hercegovina, ‘on foot, with paper and pencil'. The excuse that there is no money is nonsense. Money can always be found," Zivkovic believes.
Politics: Let us mention that parties from Srpska usually criticize the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which opposes the population census, because they claim that the SDA manipulates with the number of wartime victims and Serb refugees from the Federation B-H. However, the SDA claims that there are no conditions to conduct a population census since the Annex 7 of the Dayton Agreement regulating the return of refugees and displaced persons hasn't been fully implemented and the time to conduct preparations before the elections planned for the next year is insufficient.
"In normal conditions it takes three to four years to prepare a population census. In some parts of B-H we do not have valid addresses, we cannot use pre-war maps because now we have new municipalities with new names... If the only goal of the population census is to find out the ethnic breakdown of the population, then we do not need a census," says Zdenko Milinovic, director of the Statistics Agency of B-H.
Experts recommend careful preparation of the census so that B-H could gather all the data that is expected. Milinovic believes that preparations will take three-four years, a census another year, while data will be analyzed for at least two years after that. A population census is the most expensive and most complex statistical survey and without a census, politicians and statisticians agree, it is impossible to produce any meaningful future development plans or provide even the most basic statistical data, such as for example the Gross National Product. However, he adds that it is necessary to conduct a population census but only after thorough preparations.
It is impossible to estimate the cost of a population census in B-H, but a recent population census in Croatia, conducted in 2002, cost about $24 million, i.e. $2.5 to $4 per inhabitant, while the 1995 Israeli population census cost as much as $55 million, i.e. $10 per inhabitant.
B-H is one of few countries that haven't had the regular population census in 2000-2001 as is the custom in most countries in the world. According to certain analysis, in B-H population census has a long time ago become a political issue, due to the recent war and large demographic changes caused by the war. In the current situation, 13 years after the last census, it is almost impossible to find two institutions that share the same data about the number of inhabitants, number of refugees, war victims, persons disabled in war, socially endangered categories of the population etc. At this time there is still no political consensus regarding the right time to conduct the next population census in B-H.
Original headline - "Popis stanovnistva tek 2010"