Croatia: New Prime Minister Designate Signals Technocrat Power Trend

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-KItarovic (left) and Tihomir Oreskovic, Croatian Prime Minister Designate (right) 23 December 2015 Photo: AFP

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-KItarovic (left) and
Tihomir Oreskovic, Croatian Prime Minister Designate (right)
23 December 2015
Photo: AFP

 

For at least half a decade the European Union has seen the emergence of technocrat governments, non-elected professionals installed in government portfolios as the answer to all economic woes and problems of small and large countries, alike. We’ve seen Italy and Greece lead the way in technocrat government machinery and yet not much has been achieved in the betterment of those calamitously deteriorating economies and societies. The latest example of installing a technocratic government is occurring in Romania and will reportedly signify a dramatic stepping up of austerity measures directed against the country’s working class. Although we do not know the make-up of the new government of Croatia, because it is to be formed during the coming month, speculations are high that much of it may reflect appointments of non-elected, non-political professionals in various fields. The appointment of an non-elected professional as Prime Minister has given rise to such speculations.
One would hope that the act of appointing a non-elected professional as the new Prime Minister designate of Croatia does not translate into a possibility where democracy is regarded as merely an optional extra when solving economic problems.

The President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has Tuesday 23rd December, commensurate with the proposals made by the conservative HDZ-led coalition and the reformist coalition of independents – Most/Bridge – named Tihomir Oreskovic as the Prime Minister designate of Croatia, giving him 30 days to form the new government.
One thing that became blatantly apparent is that the Most (Bridge) coalition had almost overnight ditched its insistence on forming a tripartite government that would include practically everyone who was elected into parliament and struck a deal with the centre-right HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union, dropping centre-left Social Democrats like a hot potato. While I have always maintained that a tripartite government was not a good thing and should be avoided at any cost the fact remained that the Most/Bridge coalition had tortured the Croatian public with the idea for almost 6 weeks and has not, to my knowledge, offered a satisfactory explanation as to why it had moved away from the idea so quickly!

Tihomir Oreskovic Prime Minister Designate of Croatia Photo: Igor Kralj/Pixsell

Tihomir Oreskovic
Prime Minister Designate of Croatia
Photo: Igor Kralj/Pixsell

The Croatian public or voters do not know Mr Oreskovic, generally, however, he is reported as well known to the business circles as a highly skilled professional in business management. Mr Oreskovic came to the position of Croatia’s Prime Minister from abroad and is considered a most worthy son of Croatian diaspora. Born in Croatia, Zagreb, 1966, currently residing in Amsterdam, Tihomir or Tim Oreskovic is a Croatian-Canadian pharmaceutical and well reputed financial expert who is said to have earned his Batchelor of Science in Chemistry from McMaster University, Canada in 1989, and a Master of Business Administration/MBA in finances and IT in 1991 at the same University. He comes to Croatia from his position as Chief Financial Officer for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries global generic medicines business, had previously served as CEO and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Pliva (Croatia’s national pharmaceutical company), and was also head of financial management for Teva in Europe. He holds dual Croatian and Canadian citizenship. His relatively poor command of the Croatian language surfaced at the time of his first address as the Prime Minister designate. As one would expect, this sent media and other tongues wagging in all directions – after all he did spend his formative years growing up in Croatia and had also worked for Pliva and Teva in Croatia for a few years and the apparent lack of expressive language fluency in the Croatian language has ignited a raft of speculations about his authenticity, political and democratic legitimacy to lead the country as Prime Minister, business dealings such as the sale of Pliva to Teva and the issue of Teva extracting millions from Croatia reportedly without paying taxes … The former Social Democrat, centre-left, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic reacted to Oreskovic’s nomination as PM with particular bitterness saying that only two people in Croatia possess the legitimacy to be the Prime Minister – he, himself and the centre-right leader Tomislav Karamarko. He alluded to the electoral results that yielded the conservative HDZ 59 out of 151 seats and 53 out of 151 seats to Social Democrat Zoran Milasnovic.
Tongues will wag always but, at the same time, one thing is also certain: Oreskovic has had an exemplary and positive career in business administration and development and while seemingly a man of few words he has been known, while working at saving Croatia’s Pliva from bankruptcy, to criticise strongly Croatia’s bureaucracy and business-unfriendly red tape.

 

Oreskovic is said to have no political experience and some media in Croatia consider that a disadvantage in a Prime Minister. The same media chooses to ignore the fact, it seems, that Mr Oreskovic does not need to have any political experience as PM designate – he was appointed the PM because he is not a politician by occupation but a proven solid business administrator. He as a technocratic Prime Minister has no direct accountability to the Croatian public because the same public did not vote him in. He is directly accountable to the elected politicians who appointed him to carry out the work they evidently judged they themselves could not do, and in turn, they are accountable to the public/voters. The elected politicians, regardless of which side of politics they subscribe to will be the ones to call such a Prime Minister to account.
Whether Croatia will become a country with a government of technocrats, by technocrats, for the technocrats is anyone’s guess but certainly there is a trend of appointing non-elected professionals into government portfolios in countries where the economy seems to be drawing its last breaths before bankruptcy. Croatia’s foreign debt stands at 90% of GDP and that is riding close to death or affliction from which there is little hope of recovery any time soon. Croatia needs a stable and a knowledgeable government as the past four years have been particularly ineffective in battling foreign debt and the plummeting of living standards, soaring of unemployment. It needs to tackle the grim fiscal woes and high public debt as well as pave the way for much more investment than has occurred, especially in the private sector. The Unions in Croatia have already expressed a certain discomfort with the austerity measures that seem to be on the table under Oreskovic’s leadership and fear that Oreskovic will “easily dismiss the interests of the common people over the interests of the circles he is coming from. But the good news is, because he openly represents large capital and its interest, that is much better than what we had in the last four years – representatives of the very same capital but under the mask of social democracy“, said Vilim Ribic from the Independent Union of Research and Higher education.
I have concluded the last round of consultations. At the very end of this process, Mr Orešković convinced me that he has the support of 78 parliamentary deputies and proved it with their signatures. Therefore, in accordance with my constitutional duty, I hereby give him the mandate to constitute the new Government. I am scheduling the constituent session of the Parliament for December 28, 2015 at noonPresident Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic announced.

 

Tihomir Oreskovic

Tihomir Oreskovic

I’ll invest all my knowledge and energy so that we can start solving the huge number of problems that we have,” Oreskovic said after his nomination.

I will invest all my knowledge and effort to form a good government and to start resolving this country’s problems. I invite the parliamentary majority and the opposition to support me on that quest, I know we don’t have time for the standard 100 days and I am not asking for them. Our only goal is to work together towards a better future for all of us”.

Evidently, Oreskovic appears ready to roll-up his technocratic sleeves and make a positive difference to the Croatian economy. He deserves all the support he can get in this. The centre-left Social Democrat leader’s, Zoran Milanovic (former PM), declaration that Oreskovic has no democratic or political legitimacy to serve as Prime Minister is surely a definite sign of political incompetence on Milanovic’s part. For countries suffocating in debts and economic crises – such as Italy and Greece and now Romania, to mention only some, democratic legitimacy in terms suggested by Croatia’s former Prime Minister Milanovic is clearly regarded a luxury such countries cannot afford. A leader of a government or its minister do not need to be democratically elected members of the parliament, they do, however, when appointed by elected members of parliament, need to be efficient in implementing the job and achieving the outcomes specified through election promises by elected members of parliament.
The rather loud message coming out of Brussels is that international bodies (e.g. IMF, European Commission) believe that democratically elected governments have failed to tackle and overcome the economic crisis and should be replaced with more reliable (and controllable) technocratic governments. Whether Croatia is heading this way with the appointment of a Prime Minister who has no popular endorsement at the ballot box, is a question many are asking. It is difficult to see why the people of Croatia should see their new Prime Minister as representing their wishes when he has been imposed from above – unless, of course, the elected parliamentarians make it their business to demonstrate and explain to the people how technocratic appointments will and should work for them. Oreskovic deserves unreserved support as his appointment as Prime Minister designate carries with it the step needed for Croatia to try and overcome its dire economic woes in earnest.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Tihomir Oreskovic AFP photo

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Tihomir Oreskovic
AFP photo

 

I await with keen interest the make up of Croatia’s new government, which is to be formed in the coming 25 days or so. Regardless of the push for technocratic government coming out of Brussels the results offered by technocrats of Italy and Greece, for example, are nothing “to write home about”. Perhaps Oreskovic will prove that technocrat government can do more than just patch up immediate or short-term economic problems and remain solid partners with the political or democratic elements Croatia cannot afford to lose.

I would think that while technocratic government may implement and be successful at short-term policies the longer-term problems are going to need to be solved (or not be solved) by the elected officials. Democracy is about accountability. While it may be possible to duck accountability in the short run, long-term policies and national identity are going to have to be enacted – or at the very least maintained – by elected officials. But then, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley did “warn” the democratic world about the invasion of our governments by grey inflexible men, armed with statistics and new rule books, usurping democracy from the people and imposing the one-size-fits-all policies of European and global elites. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. Ines Radman says:

    I have often said that our hospitals should not be run by doctors, doctors should curing patients. A country is a business that we as shareholders invest, I dont know this man but I think he will run the business of government much better than any incompetent politician. Time will tell in these quazy democratic times where banks rule and people suffer. Get ready for shit to hit the fan.

    Like

    • Certainly drastic or different steps are needed, Ines, as politicians have proven incompetent so far even in being able to put together teams of professionals to do the work they were elected to be. Perhaps with a professional at the helm things will change for the better (?)

      Like

      • Ines Radman says:

        It can’t get any worse Ina, it only can get better, I believe a good manager like Tim will do the job provided he is not sabotaged by the EU, after all, they are in power at this time and will not want Croatia or any country for that matter be in the positive, the banks need more blood, and their goals are really to get every nation as indebted as possible. Look at Greece and soon to become Greece Croatia had either political sides taken over. These politicians are good at their ideologies and selling it to the masses, but shitty managers, big spenders and more recently arrogant with impunity. I’m sure glad this zoran idiot didn’t stay, but then neither HDZ is any better. They are all the same, a real government will disclose it’s expenditures in public like it should in a democracy. I get sick when I see their expensive cars while so many people are hungry. Keep doing a great job Ina!

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      • I do hope so Ines, and Tim does need and deserve all the support he can get. Let’s trust that the “tall poppy” syndrome and other types of envy don’t kill off his good work. Thank you and cheers

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    • Has he resigned his job at the pharmacy co.? American foreign corrupt practices act, may find events leading up to this election, a little troubling.

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      • Not sure Solange, but could be now that he is appointed as PM designate, but then again, PM position is a permanent as the electoral cycle so maybe he has taken leave without pay from old job – I would if I were in such a predicament 🙂

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  2. It seems that a Prime Minister should be an elected politician but not in this case where someone can just be appointed lacking the nous to survive the political intrigue that will no doubt surround him. I wish Croatia more luck than other countries where grey men have stepped in.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

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    • Me too David – so far grey men in grey suits have not done much good except raised foreign debt – but, perhaps we are turning a corner in Croatia 🙂 We live and learn and hope 🙂

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  3. Great article Ina! I think Croatia just may have the right combo with Pres KGK (the politician) and Tim Oreskovic (the business administrator). They will probaby work together on many issues, so this is a good thing. Carol

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    • I think it must be given a fair chance, Carol. Certainly Croatia needs fresh approaches in government and governance and Tim Oreskovic may just prove to be the beacon of that fresh approach.

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  4. In the US, in France and Germany, the Executive (Cabinet) is not formed only from elected persons. In France and in Holland, persons appointed as ministers are required to leave parliament.
    In the Westminster (British) system all ministers have to be members of Parliament or of the Upper House, the Lords. Same in Australia, Canada, NZ, India, Ireland etc. The new trend whereby the whole government can be made up of non-elected officials/professionals – technocratic government – does take away quite a bit from the true sense of democracy but I do agree with you, Ina, that this could be overcome by elected politicians making sure of accountability and making sure that any such non-elected government actually goes about doing the business or implementing programs politicians were elected into parliament for – their election promises implemented so to speak. Wish them luck!

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  5. “The sky is falling! The Euro is collapsing! What can we do? Look, up in the sky: it’s a bird! it’s a plane, it’s… technocratic government!” – Joshua A Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University, 2011

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    • Yes, Bastion, technocratic governments have been seen as saviours of sorts but so far they have not proven true to the expectations. Let’s hope Croatia will prove different and succeed.

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  6. History suggests that technocrats do best when blitzing the mess made by incompetent and squabbling politicians. But the problem for the new leaders in EU that are installed into governments because of their professional competencies, who have not been elected by the people, is that the source of their woes, the euro zone’s design flaws, stems from mistakes made in Brussels. Remedying that will take many years, far longer than technocrats’ usual political lifespan. And it will need more than just brains and integrity. That is why it’s so vital that democracy and political relevance is maintained for the long-haul I agree, Ina.

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    • Thank you, Hawk – Brussels has much to answer for indeed. We are seeing some interesting times across EU politically wise and in cases where for instance a technocratic government – which has no direct accountability to the people – fails, like it did in Greece, then the people may find other ways of expressing disapproval since voting doesn’t come into the equation – unrest and demonstrations can be a scary thing. Politicians that are elected need to keep a responsible eye on the work of non-elected officials in government.

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  7. Wishing for a good government to be formed in Croatia. There’s been enough of incompetence and damage

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  8. I think in democracy when we are electing the best people to do job, are really not the best. Most of them don’t do the job right, or they are not qualified to do it. They are surrounded by huge number of adviser, consultants, lobbies and it is a huge drain of tax payer dollars.
    I proposed that in next election we raise pay for all elected ministers to 5 or 10 (or more) million dollars with a condition what they must do to earn it. With a such stimulant, country will attract the best and brightest and most experience professionals

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    • Good idea, rb, furthermore there should be something similar to a probationary period for them. Not only have they shown to be incompetent themselves but what’s worse is that they’ve shown incompetence in choosing competent advisers and public servants – the plague brought across from communist installments, political favouritism and nepotism

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  9. Happy Holidays ! 🙂
    Aliosa.

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  10. I can only wish them well in their choices of those who they hope will govern them through into better times.. I can only say here in the UK.. Nothing seems to be being learnt, as the NHS is an example of it failing rapidly deeper into the Red. And employed are these so called experts who have business heads on.. Sadly where ever I look within our local governments especially.. While we are being squeezed in ever higher local taxes, their own spending powers squander millions.. Upon projects none beneficial to the majority in need..

    I pray for Croatia and all countries to see that these austerity measures are hurting the most those who are the bread winners and backbone of their countries who produce the very wealth through manufacturing and industries..

    Here we had one of our few major steel works closed down recently ,while cheaper imports come in from China.. It is time these so called officials looked to support their homelands and their people, instead of profit margins.

    I do not know the answers Ina.. but the solutions are not always found by paying those with so called brains to bail them out of difficulties.. By introducing yet more measures that cut the very arteries that feed them.

    Love and Blessings for the New Year Ina.. and many thanks for your wonderful support at Dreamwalker’s xxx ❤

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    • Most of us shudder at what may come down the line in twenty years, Sue, if something is not changed, more jobs created, purchase power increased so the young have a chance of owning their own home in their working lifetime…more of what has been happening can only paint a very bleak future…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. we are so very stuck in what isn’t working, because we are so caught up in the past of ideas of what has always been should always be… Instead Change is coming in forms of new ways of thinking.. And only by embracing new ideas and daring to challenge old systems can the world break free of these old paradigms..

        Here’s to a New Tomorrow!… Happy 2016 to you and yours Ina.. May it bring about those positive changes which enable to whole to work as one instead of it to work for the few who make profit upon others hard work.. xxx
        Love Sue

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      • Thank you Sue, much much happiness in the New Year to you and yours – I too believe new ways must be found for new circumstances otherwise there’ll be more poverty and servants to loans and homeless – a bleak future indeed for the young unless a turnaround is achieved

        Liked by 1 person

      • This year may well open up many eyes dear Ina.. as to what they find? will depend upon the ‘Spirit’ of how we perceive what it is we really want for our future generations to come. For we both know the pathway can not continue upon it’s present course.. Love and Blessings to you Ina xx

        Like

      • Indeed

        Liked by 1 person

  11. The plot thickens. We’ll be watching to see where this development will take Croatia. Best of luck for 2016, you deserve it!

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  12. please read: http://kamenjar.com/poziv-na-veliku-podrsku-generalu-glasnovicu/

    General Glasnovic needs the support of ALL Croats to accomplish lustration…after Milanovic’s comments today, if it wasn’t clear it is very clear that Croatia is gripped by Yugo Communists who are not the future, but a retarded backward mentality…

    Like

  13. Ina, I know you are a friend with Shaun Gibson and he wanted his friends to know what was going on. Please forward this post to anyone whom else might be interested. Happy New Year!
    http://shaunynews.com/2015/12/29/why-i-had-to-say-goodbye-to-social-media-i-am-very-ill/

    Like

  14. I had been confused by the lack of success technocrats typically have until I started looking into the ways persuasion works. One of the central truths of getting people to agree with you is that logic isn’t of primary importance, it’s probably not even of secondary importance.

    Thus, it makes sense that all these highly logical, carefully reasoning technocrats would crash in burn in the arena of politics.

    Of course, that means politicians don’t need logic to appeal to us, the people. That, sadly, seems self-evident.

    Like

  15. In a democratic set-up these kinds of incidents happen. Coming from India, where the assistant chief minister of a region is a 12th grade failure I believe that there must be minimum qualification for people who enter politics so that we are saved from mis-rule. What do you feel ?

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. […] life in Canada,” Timothy Less writes and continues: “…If all now goes according to Most’s (Bridge coalition of independents that is forming government with conservative HDZ ) plan, a reformist leader (Tihomir Oreskovic) with a track record of success in business will […]

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  2. […] life in Canada,” Timothy Less writes and continues: “…If all now goes according to Most’s (Bridge coalition of independents that is forming government with conservative HDZ ) plan, a reformist leader (Tihomir Oreskovic) with a track record of success in business will […]

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