Dizajn Slaviša Savić

The problem of corruption are not individual politicians, but the extent to which the parties undercut the institutions.
Enrico Berlinguer

Just before this year’s Vidovdan, Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, bent over the model of “Belgrade waterfront” promised to Serbia and to the world: “Construction of this magnificent new landmark of the region – Belgrade of the third millennium, will begin in March 2015”. The prime minister’s Vidovdan prolegomenon reminds us of Miodrag Popovic and the book “Vidovdan and the holy cross” where he wrote: “The myth of Vidovdan can be fatal for those who aren’t able to break free from its pseudo-mythical and pseudo-historical webs”. Proving that myth mania expands, only four days after the prime minister, current mayor Sinisa Mali also swore over the same model of “Belgrade waterfront” that its construction will last less than 10 years.

And, now we have everything. Beginning and an end, what more could we want? Byung-Chul Han,[1] in his book “Society of transparency” claims that there is a “dark side to transparency”, i.e. that too much transparency usually serves to conceal the key information under piles of non-important ones. We can’t accuse our politicians of something like that. They are modest, especially when it comes to transparency. Somebody else always ruins our happiness. Criminology and economy have found a common ground in grand projects. They are also called “mega” projects, but that sounds tendentious. Experts say that, ever since banks learned that they will easily cover their losses by the state there is a rapid decrease of interest for profitable, but small investments, while interest for magnificent projects that will probably never be finished increases.[2] The goal is not to make something, but to design, imagine, to “pull the economy”, to make the citizens happy and proud to have something, doesn’t matter what; what matters is that it’s “the biggest in the world” or, at least modestly a la Vucic – in the region. And to filch some money off it, of course.

Our sun rises in Arab Emirates. Their money, entrepreneurship and altruism are supposed to make Little Dubai out of Serbia, heaven on earth, covered in glass, shinny and silly, like all that modern hamburger architecture from Brazil to Kazakhstan and China. However, we should remember that our good Samaritans had “a con of the century” in real estate. In 2009. during the crises of pharaonic construction business in Dubai, an affair summarized in the headline “Bye bye Dubai” erupted. It was about a local “respectable” agency that managed to sell to the Britons three skyscrapers that didn’t even exist. The news spread fast, but it was covered up eventually, since the owners of the agency were members of the royal family. It all came down to a joke when a sound could – hybrid music project of the same name – Bye bye Dubai, appeared! The subject of our interest is not music, but how our little-leaguers are able to play with the world-class con artists.

According to Corruption Perceptions Index, in 2013 Serbia was 72 out of 175 countries, i.e. in the better half of the world. The fact that it shares that position with B&H is not much of a reference. Emirates are far ahead, at number 26, although we should mention that there are over 2,370,000 pieces about corruption in Dubai on the internet, questioning the objectivity of PCPI ranking. The problem is “perception” which hardly matches up to our perception when we see that Italy, that holds the copyright to mafia, is placed ahead of Serbia. 192 projects that were started over 10 years ago, out of which only 17 (7%) were finished, while 1.6 billion or 46% of the planned sum were spent, have been troubling Italy for years. Three new mastodon construction and corruption projects are particularly maddening to the public. Over 150 businessmen and politicians (both from left and right) have already been arrested, including two financial police generals who managed to turn a nice profit from those projects. It hasn’t yet started in Serbia, the construction, I mean.

There is a rule in economy called Tullock’s paradox (Gordon Tullock) which could be summed up as following: The amount of bribe stretches according to the value of the contract. Among many rules there is one, stated in a study by Neil Strandsbery, which says: “The bigger the project, the bigger and easier the steal”. Antonio Lioy, professor and judicial expert, goes on to say: ”The majority of mega projects imply construction of unique objects, those that have never been built, neither locally, nor globally. This makes it difficult to determine whether the price which is to be paid is real or not”.

One of the corruption “celebrities”, American senator William “Boss” Tweed, back in 1877 had said that the state money is easily procured for projects whose point is “to create a large number of well-paid jobs and initiate a new phase of economic development of the country”. This formula was later enthroned as “populist clientelism”. There’s more; for example economists Hamid Dawudi and Vito Tanzi have charted their discovery about corruption leading to the decrease of the project quality – by stealing in quantity and quality of material used. Furthermore, it’s always easier to get money for new projects than to maintain existing ones. Paolo Mauro, economist at the IMF, besides documenting that “corruption is bad for economic growth,” argues further: “Countries with high levels of corruption spend evidently less on education; the future of capitalism is to have fewer teachers in schools, and more instructors at ski resorts – because it pays better”. This statement was made during the Winter Olympics in Sochi[3] when the global scramble for ski instructors happened. The situation is similar with World football cup in Brazil, where corruption around the event (budgeted at 11 billion U.S. dollars) threatens to significantly change the earlier picture of local corruption estimated at a standard $ 53 billion per year! And finally: Grant Thornton Agency estimates that the total cost of corruption in the world will increase from the current 1,000 to 1,500 billion dollars a year in the next 10 years, because of the demand for monumental projects. The future is outlined!

Corruption has become the driving force of the economy. It dictates projects, the amount of investment, distribution of money and, of course, the future of the country. Because we no longer build for the money, but at the expense of future generations. There is no example of use of private equity for construction of a mega object, no matter how useful it could be for the community, because the private equity is funding private (individual) benefit. It has the power, and ruthlessly uses the tax (state) money, shouting at the state “Hang the Thief!”. Ten most indebted countries in the world, or 5.7% of the total number, “hold” 46.4% of the total debt. The gap is almost the same as with wealth. The most indebted citizens don’t live in Greece (47,636), but in the rich UK (160,158 dollars of debt per capita). The largest sum of debt does not belong to Italy (2.460 billion) against which Bundesbank holds the indictment, but to the United States (17.344 billion dollars) which is the “engine” of the planet. If the most advanced ones are also the most indebted, then why shouldn’t we improve ourselves? It is not impossible that the Belgrade bathing beauty is just an attempt of this kind. We live in a civilization of debts. External debt of countries totals to 72,853 billion U.S. dollars, which is 74.2% of the total GDP of the planet. Total debts (including internal debts) are nearly two and a half times higher. Serbia is in debt with others officially 60%, but unofficially 80% of its GDP.


I hope this, more or less, clears the picture about the links between magnificent projects, corruption and power. If the Serbian government had called for a referendum on its millennial enterprise, that would have been democratic. Many voters and significant number of those who tailor public opinion would vote against. Ethical variant “AGAINST” is unquestionable and emotional. No one can be accused of unfairly earning millions. There’s accumulated experience and anger about the lies, manipulation, loss of trust in anyone, from MPs to the priests. Politics is maniacally obsessed with itself – which also goes for the government and the opposition, current and from the previous session. Vent to anger and powerlessness would be to circle “AGAINST” with a juicy supporting murmur. However, the outcome would not have been predictable, because a good deal of our voters likes the ones that offer radical solutions such as, until Seselj returns, A.V. and SNS.

Whoever would contemplate over whether it’s worth to vote “yes” would have to think without emotion. For example, are they voting like that because they’re a philistine (the government wants …), because they expect a personal gain or maybe because they believe in our national genius (remember: “Sanctions will only help us show what we can do”). Then they would be faced with a reasonable doubt whether it will really turn into something. Is it not just one of countless similar rigs to collect money and disappear. Reasons for doubt are many – for example, all those slick urban jars are, economically speaking, parasites. Someone or something must feed and support them. Here’s what I mean: China pays for its blooming with cheap labor force; Brazil and Russia have abundance of raw materials; New York, London, Frankfurt have global finance. Someone has to create so that others can spend.

The only strength of Belgrade, as I had the opportunity to hear and read, is “the night life”. While it is possible to turn the current charming but poor partying into an “industry”, it is necessary to first develop prostitution to the level of business that allows the accumulation of capital. We have “fresh meat”, as the jargon says it. Belgrade bathing beauty would get its Esther Williamses. However, without the modern mafia providing infrastructure to this venture, the business would be off. We’re not Amsterdam with the ladies in the windows who pay their income taxes. It is likely that our criminals would have to buy their knowhow from the world, and that means connecting with the powerful world of crime and gaining a much greater degree of judicial impunity.

Since I don’t consider the “rejection front” a significant intellectual-political achievement, I would say that there are solid arguments in favor of science fiction in Belgrade urban space formerly known as Bara Venecija. This space, full of extraordinary potential opportunities, today looks like it’s located in Bangladesh, not in Europe.[4] Therefore, the idea to do something is reasonable. Back in the New Deal time, the American ultra liberal conservatives formulated their refusal in five points. Fifth, the most important one was: “Public Works impose expropriation of the land, which is the most serious attack on the inalienable right of private property.” Here our hustlers really found a solution worthy of attention – the ownership of the land remains intact. I believe that many of those who own a lot on Savamala are already dreaming of regular rent coming from Dubai. The third reason in favor of wishful thinking is the promise of creating “200,000 jobs.” If the tenth of that had been promised, I would believe it, since the demolition and construction today are highly mechanized works where human labor generally only gets in the way. That’s why I’m inclined to convince others that it is a nonsense, I mustn’t say lie, because the main collector of investors Mr. Mohammed Alabbar himself said so, and he is a powerful man.

The reasoning of the opponents to “happiness and success” is reasonable – that “there are more urgent things”. But it is also childish. Equity is not interested in more urgent things. Caritas and Kolo srpskih sestara Charity have no money, Kusturica had already spent a lot on Andrićgrad, and large capital goes only where it will earn the biggest and fastest profit. The laws of its markets are stronger than the legal systems. No more idyllic equality, social happiness with moderate gain, belief in the future – there’s only scramble and pragmatism. I’m not ashamed to quote those smarter than myself: “Capitalism has made all moral conventions senseless in the last half-century”; those who care what comes next should look in Eric Hobsbawm’s books. The promised ten years of construction is a long period, sufficient for many things to fall into obscurity or, as Keynes said cynically: “In the long run we are all dead.” This also applies to mega projects.

If anyone expected me to accuse anyone, they must be disappointed. In a normal society, the job of the judiciary is to investigate, gather evidence, indict, trial and convict. With megalomanic projects it is almost inevitable after 3 to 5 years from the starting ceremony. We are still in the phase of warming up the audience.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Peščanik.net, 12.07.2014.


  1. Byung-Chul Han is German philosopher of Korean origin. Asian names are at vogue. However, Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo wrote a book of almost the same name “Transparent society” six years before Han, where he says that transparency is not everything: “Without secrets, the politics becomes sad theatrocracy…”
  2. Italian prime minister Berlusconi successfully lobbied for a bridge that would connect Sicily with Italian mainland. The project was supposed to be equal to landing on Mars, financially and technologically. Out of 4.5 billion euro planned 1.1 billion was “spent” on project design, marketing, ground works (leveling land the size of three football playgrounds), compensation to builders and associates and “other expenses”, including termination of the project.
  3. The winter Olympics in Sochi was budgeted at 12 billion dollars and now it is estimated that the total cost was about 50 billion dollars.
  4. I know what I’m talking about, I grew up there and the nostalgia forces me from time to time to go back and see a few pretty sights that still remain.

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Milutin Mitrović (1931-2020) novinar, 1954. kao urednik Studenta primljen u Udruženje novinara i ostao trajno privržen tom poslu. Studirao prava i italijansku književnost, ali nijedne od tih studija nije završio, pa je zato studirao za svaki tekst. Najveći deo radnog veka proveo u nedeljniku Ekonomska politika, gde je obavljao poslove od saradnika do glavnog urednika i direktora. U toj novini je osnovno pravilo bilo da se čitaocu pruži što više relevantnih informacija, a da se sopstvena mudrovanja ostave za susrete sa prijateljima u bifeu. Tekstovi su mu objavljivani ili prenošeni u kanadskim, američkim, finskim i italijanskim medijima, a trajnije je sarađivao sa švajcarskim časopisom Galatea. Pisao za Biznis i finansije i Peščanik. Fabrika knjiga i Peščanik su mu objavili knjigu „Dnevnik globalne krize“.

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