Wicker, Shaheen introduce legislation to aid economy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bipartisan legislation was introduced on Thursday to encourage job creation and economic stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Since my first visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, the country has made tremendous progress,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said. “This bill would reinvigorate private sector development and provide opportunities for American investors. Our efforts are modeled after successful development programs for Eastern European countries following the fall of the Iron Curtain.”

The legislation, introduced by Wicker and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), would establish an enterprise fund directed by a board of American investment professionals that would be capable of leveraging both private and public funding to provide access to the same kinds of loans and investment opportunities available to small and medium-sized American businesses.

The approximately $10 billion in public and private funds for the enterprise fund would be used in programs modeled after those run by the U.S. that supported Central and Eastern European economies following the fall of the Berlin Wall. The fund would promote the private sector through the authorization of up to $30 million dollars over 15 years to bring American investors into the economy.

Wicker and Shaheen said that bolstering the private sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina would create needed space to continue moving forward on political reforms.

“Since the end of the Bosnian war 20 years ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina has travelled a long and difficult road towards peace and reconciliation,” Shaheen said. “Economic growth and opportunity are critical to sustaining this country’s significant progress. This bill is an opportunity for the United States to step-up its efforts to promote stability in the region by providing much-needed financing to proven job-creators, while also opening up investment opportunities for American businesses.”

While nearby Croatia’s per capita income hovers at $13,000, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s is less than $5,000 and unemployment in the country tops 40 percent. The nation also faced widespread protests in 2014 in a display of frustration over the economy, which has an annual trade deficit of approximately $4 billion.