Just when we got used to intentionally incomprehensible and intentionally or negligently increased electricity bills, gas bills, just like those, arrived. What the nice weather gave us (to reduce heating), the voracious government took. Intelligent laymen among the consumers had an explanation: the quality of gas was much worse (than usual) so we used more of it. Non-intelligent laymen responsible for high bills – had no explanation. Because we didn’t demand one.
After they saw how smoothly this went, other civil servants wished to line their pockets in the same way.
A couple of days after the satirical web site News.net published fictional, but apparently prophetic news that EPS had sent out bills for street lighting to the homeless, other media published real (hopefully not prophetic) news that the citizens of Vrbas, who do not use city central heating, received bills for “indirect heating”. The public utility company explained that they had sent the bills to these non-users because “they get heat from their neighbors’ apartments”, and the manager revealed another, equally coherent reason: “when we came into power we found deficit in the budget”. And nobody asked him when exactly did he come into power (because he only became the manager, and didn’t come into power) and what right does he have to send people who don’t use “heating services” (they really think that they are doing us a favor by providing heating which we pay for!) any bills, let alone inflated ones.
How can all of this be happening to us? Because they count on us not to do anything. Not only will we not riot, like some other citizens of some other countries would, but the majority of us won’t even file a complaint to the bill. And we won’t – because in Serbia filing a complaint is a very demanding procedure.
First of all, in order to fight a (literally) hostile government, an ordinary Serbian citizen must be not only literate (which the majority of us are not), but also educated (which also the majority of us are not) and possess highly developed verbal skills because civil servants at counters don’t have the patience to wait for us to articulate our problem, and if they become annoyed they won’t even try to solve it (even worse, everyone in the line will become annoyed and turn against us because they don’t care if we are right nor do they want us to solve our problem – they only care about when will be their turn, just like we would if we were in their place instead of at the counter).
Second of all, an average Serbian citizen should be unemployed (which the majority of us are) in order to have the time to come to the counter during working hours, most probably several times since one time the system will fail, another time electricity will be out, another time the “person in charge” won’t be in, and every time only one counter will be open so, even in the best case scenario, you can end up standing in line until closing time (which is always earlier than stated on the (usually handwritten) piece of paper and taped to the counter, so you don’t even know when the closing time is before you approach the place where your fate for that day will be decided).
And if that counter is not in your place of residence, which is the case with all places outside the cities, than you need to have transportation and money to pay for it, plus extra time for travel in order to reach the counter.
Those are the things that those who maliciously or negligently attack our home budget, our dignity and our peace of mind count on. And this will continue until we do our own calculations and submit our bill to the government.
Translated by Marijana Simic