It has been our observation that in the world of retail Bosnia and Herzegovina has yet to evolve in to the fiercely competitive market that we were used to in the UK. It's seems retail is not the only area this is the case. The World Economic Forum has presented its 2009-2010 global competitiveness report and Bosnia and Herzegovina comes 109th out of 133 major and emerging economies.
What caught my attention was that this position leaves the country sandwiched between Uganda, just above it, and Cambodia, just below it. Those countries share the distinctive that at some point in their history they have been the byword for atrocities in their region. Does that make them fitting neighbours?
From my limited perspective - I've visited neither Uganda or Cambodia - I would say no. I find it hard to reconcile the potential I see in this country with the stigma I've seen attached to the others. The sad reality this report highlights is that the mention of Bosnia and Herzegovina is likely to continue to draw the sharp-intake-of-breathe response in business circles.
The financial fiasco that has done much to undermine the credibility of western capitalism over the last year may make you ask if competitiveness is that important after all. It is. While the inexcusable excesses that have been exposed do the system no favours the alternative is stagnation and exploitation. Whether progress is inevitable or not is up for discussion. News articles can be depressing but we see encouraging signs on the ground.
You would have to wear blinkers to only see encouraging signs but here's an example of this morning's news of progress, albeit of the slow and steady type. After seventeen years the railway line has re-opened between Belgrade and Sarajevo. We plan to visit the Serbian capital one day; now we have another transport option!