Like most countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national government has used the pandemic to gain more control over its citizens' lives. Association Multi, an Atlas Network partner, launched their Liberal Intervention project in March as a counterbalance to pending government expansion.
The Multi team helped defeat several proposed reforms that were aimed at increasing taxes and national borrowing from the International Monetary Fund. The federal government intended to change The Law on Contributions and Income Tax and was set to raise taxes on independent contractors. Multi worked with the Center for Policy and Governance to educate lawmakers, held virtual panel discussions, and appeared in prominent news outlets to highlight the negative impact of raising taxes in the middle of a pandemic. Multi used a similar strategy when there was discussion of a VAT rate increase and a minimum wage hike.
When it became apparent that the government was planning to take out a loan from the IMF, Multi also stepped in. “Our two main economists organized a joint-letter with other prominent economists stating that we must not borrow from the IMF at any cost,” explained Multi Director Admir Čavalić, “and that we must make the necessary reforms if we want a new loan.” The letter quickly became a focal point in the public conversation and the potential harm from borrowing was more widely discussed, as Multi kept the conversation alive with a robust media campaign. Thanks in part to Association Multi, the loan was ultimately blocked by the national government, saving taxpayers billions.
Association Multi knew early on that the Bosnian government would expand once given the opportunity, so they got ahead of it and launched their Liberal Intervention project in March. While the fight is ongoing and there have been countless poor government responses to the pandemic in Bosnia and around the world, Association Multi helped stop legislation that would have made the recovery immensely more difficult. “The project and our activities showed that we have the strength and capacity to make some changes in the public and political spheres,” continued Čavalić. “Now we are focused on human rights, specifically human rights violations related to the Covid-19 crisis.”
Atlas Network supported the Liberal Intervention project with a COVID-19 Response Fund grant.