Although Croatia is a beautiful country, many wonder what it is really like to live in Croatia? Is Croatia rich or poor?
- Croatia is among the poorest countries in the European Union
- According to certain criteria, though, Croatia is a rich country
- The widespread hidden economy in Croatia may somewhat distort statistical data
- Croatia is plagued by “UHLJEBI”, a phenomenon describing political and economic parasites
As you probably know, statistics may be quite misleading. But let me try to paint a realistic picture of Croatian society.
There are many romantic and picturesque old towns and villages in Croatia.
However, living in one of these old towns or in a picturesque old house may not always be romantic.
1. Croatia Is Among The Poorest Countries In The European Union
Croatians had high expectations from the European Union. “Croatia will soon become a new Switzerland!” “A new Canada!”
Croatians may have this general feeling of low self-esteem when it comes to our view of the developed countries of Europe. That is why many of us were so euphoric when we finally became part of the “privileged society” of Europe in 2013.
This feeling of low self-esteem is, as usual, coupled with the tendency to look down on “less fortunate” ones.
I will never forget a show on Yugoslav TV (so, even before Croatia declared independence in 1991).
A number of business people from certain countries from behind the Iron Curtain were invited to the show as well as some of the successful Yugoslav entrepreneurs. A comparison was made between dull, grey and austere Communist commercials and the bright, lively and shiny Yugoslav commercials. “Look how successful we are!”
(BTW, Yugoslavia was also a Communist country, but it was quite inclined to the Western free market economy.)
Anyway, “We’re so much better than you!”, we would secretly whisper to ourselves, and kept looking down at those poor, grey, dirty and utterly miserable nations.
And, you guess, it turned out to be a classic example of “THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE STORY”
A 19th-century illustration of La Fontaine’s Fables by Jean Grandville
Of course, unlike the Eastern European nations, we had the tragic war, which was a huge setback for our economy. However, the war seems to be taken as an excuse all too often.
Only 20 Years Ago Croatia Was Three Times Richer Than Romania. Today, Romania Is Richer Than Croatia.
According to Eurostat data, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Croatia in 2018 amounted to only 63 percent of the average GDP per capita in the EU.
Croatia is now behind of all new EU members in terms of level of development, except Bulgaria, which, however, is approaching Croatia at an accelerated rate, and whose GDP per capita in 2018, according to Eurostat, was 51 percent of the EU average. At the same time, Romania’s GDP per capita has reached 66 per cent of the EU average.
The actual purchasing power of an average Romanian is one fifth higher than the purchasing power of an average inhabitant of Croatia.
According to Eurostat data, the purchasing power of Croatian citizens in 2019 was only 66 percent of the EU average. In other words, it was a 30% less than the purchasing power of the average EU resident.
Compared to the level of consumption of Germany, it turns out that the average German has almost twice as much purchasing power as the average Croat. Compared to the consumption of the average citizen of Luxembourg, the richest member of the EU, Croats have half the purchasing power.
What Does This Mean For An Average Croatian? (Pre-COVID-19 Data!)
Well, it means that more than half of Croatians CANNOT afford taking a one-week-long vacation outside of their home.
It also means that, on average, Croatians spend as much as 30% of their income just to buy FOOD.
More than 70% of cars in Croatia are more than 10 years old. An average car in Croatia in 2018 was almost 15 years old.
As a consequence of the poor financial situation and lack of favourable housing policy, young people in Croatia leave their parents’ home at an average age of 31.8, later than in any other EU country.
Almost 60% of Croatians (including myself) buy chocolate exclusively at shop sales or wait for special offers.
A quarter (25%) of Croatians NEVER eat out.
WHY IS THIS SO? PLEASE REFER TO PART 4 OF THIS ARTICLE.
2. According To Certain Criteria, Though, Croatia Is A Rich Country
- Croatia is one of the safest countries in Europe and has the lowest share of people (2.6%) who are victims of crime, violence and vandalism.
- According to Eurostat data published in 2019, Croatia has the lowest share of students (3.3%) who drop out of early schooling.
- Among EU regions, Adriatic Croatia is the third most popular tourist destination.
- Over 90% of Croatians OWN the house or the apartment in which they live
- High-quality drinking water is easily available to almost ALL in Croatia
- Croatia has high hygiene standards.
- On global scale, Croatia has a decent healthcare system, available to ALL (even though Croatians might disagree).
- Croatia has an exemplary system of elementary education (Croatian would disagree with that, too).
3. The Widespread Hidden Economy In Croatia May Somewhat Distort Statistical Data
A word of caution: Eurostat data may not reflect the real state of Croatian economy and the material prosperity of its citizens.
These data are based on official statistics, which do not include Croatia’s hidden economy.
Data on the size of the hidden economy in Croatia vary. Some earlier research has shown that one third of economic activity in Croatia takes place outside the reach of tax and custom administration.
Many house owners rent their property without declaring their income. This is especially so in tourism. A significant portion of various services provided by individuals and small companies are never registered. To some extent, farmer’s products are traditionally marketed via “hidden” channels.
Since taxation in Croatia is really overwhelming (Why? Please read Part 4), tax avoidance appears as the major contributor to the existence of hidden economy. To some extent, the inert (and possibly corrupt) government agencies seemingly turn the blind eye on this problem for some reason.
Some say that only the introduction of PROPERTY TAX (and Croatia doesn’t have property taxes. Read on to Part 4 to find out why.) would reveal the real picture of Croatian economy and the poverty (or affluence) of its citizens.
4. Croatia Is Plagued By “UHLJEBI”, A Phenomenon Describing Political And Economic Parasites
Sorry, I just HAD TO put this picture. I was trying to find the example that would aptly describe the phenomenon of the “UHLJEBI”. (BTW, it you want to learn what the fish parasite actually does to the fish tongue and what happens to the fish, please refer to Wikipedia)
The word itself, UHLJEB [‘oukh‘lee’yebb], and its plural form, UHLJEBI, is challenging to translate. The root of the word is HLJEB, which means Bread (sustenance). The verb, UHLJEBITI, means to provide someone with an incessant and indefinite source of income and material security. Hence, an UHLJEB is a person who benefits from such a source of bounty to time indefinite.
So, who gets these benefits? Well, someone’s spouses, siblings, cousins (as in nepotism), friends, godsons, neighbours and so on and on. However, there is a catch: You preferably need to be an adherent of a particular political party. Why? So you would VOTE for that party at the coming elections.
Actually, UHLJEBI neither need to be instructed for whom to vote nor motivated to do so. They would WANT to vote in order to KEEP BENEFITING from their fountain of youth.
In turn, the politicians who GET ELECTED by the UHLJEBI, make sure NO REFORMS ever happen, so that the UHLJEBI would keep supporting them. Additionally, laws are written or not written in a way to support and legalise this behaviour. This may well be one of the reasons why there are no property taxes in Croatia.
The judicial system is also affected by this vicious circle. Time and again notorious criminals are being subjected to never-ending trials and usually get away with it all. And “ALL” usually means millions of euros.
Interestingly, it seems that the number of those who vote at Croatian elections is just slightly higher than the number of the members of political parties. And the number is IMPRESSIVE. More than 11% of Croatians are full-fledged members of a political party. (BTW, The United Kingdom has less than 2%, Germany 3%, Poland only 0,8%). And there are more than 166 political parties in Croatia!
Why? Because without the party card, you apparently cannot even get a menial job in a state-controlled company.
Needless to say that the UHLJEBI, very much as parasites, don’t provide their hosts with many benefits. They are usually under-educated or they’re given custom made jobs that don’t serve any purpose other than feeding the UHLJEB.
Very much like an organism affected by a parasitic infection, this vicious circle should, technically, eventually should come to an end, either with the death of the host or the death of the parasite.
However, even though Croatia displays symptoms of a severe parasitic infection (loosing weight, slower growth or absence of it, anaemia, hair loss..), the vicious (feudal) circle is still spinning. Why?
Some Of The Reasons Why This Takes Place
Well, apart from money acquired from tax payers, these parasites feed on money coming from abroad.
Croatian foreign debt is constantly rising. Those who provide Croatia with money must be aware of what is happening. And yet, they keep giving money. Obviously, as in colonialism, they (will) get something in return.
The other reason why Croatians turn the blind eye on this …(those who don’t have no option other than these: to get fatally frustrated, accept their destiny or leave the country (BTW HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS DID) or find themselves a NICHE (I hope I did))… is that they’re also hoping to get something in return.
For instance, a huge percentage of the houses built by Croatians were built WITHOUT a building permit (some 1 million houses). Illegally. Consequently, these houses were legalised. However,they had to pay LESS they would have paid it they did it legally.
Croatians (well, some of them, or at least those 11%) seem to be very opportunistic. There was a popular saying in former Yugoslavia: “Nitko me ne može tako malo platiti koliko malo ja mogu raditi” or “Nobody can pay me so little as little I can work“
Instead of a conclusion, try to focus on the positive. And there’s SO much of it. Neither thieves nor criminals nor UHLJEBI can take it away from you.
Will live in a universe overflowing with abundance of love and peace. Draw your strength from it. As I try to.
I took this picture or the sunrise in Slatine, the village where I live, on the island of Čiovo in Dalmatia.
I was waiting for my boat and couldn’t help but notice how awe-inspiring it was!