Amina Deljkovic (left) knows a thing or two about meeting a budget. Both the deputy mayor of Sarajevo’s Stari Grad municipality and a mother of four, she has learned how to monitor spending. Since some people cannot live within their means, the politician has put her weight behind a program providing debt counselling to her constituents in Sarajevo’s Old City section. “Any initiative that helps citizens reach their goals is something we support,” Deljekovic says.
To succeed, good ideas often need the right tools. That’s why the Development Facility of the European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE DF), which is managed by Finance in Motion, has sponsored a manual that supports debt counselling for people living in Sarajevo and some 30 municipalities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.
How can the manual help? The country’s Central Bank Governor Senad Softić says, “This guide will play a key role in providing important information for public-sector financial counsellors assisting people on how to best manage their personal finances. The Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina supports financial education and counselling activities that are strengthening financial inclusion, and this project represents a prime example of one of them.”
To produce the manual, the EFSE DF teamed with Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and U plusu, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leading organisation for promoting financial literacy. The handbook is proving helpful: Andrej Dizdarević, a debt counsellor in Sarajevo’s Old City, says because many municipal employees have duties beyond advising clients about their finances, the guide and its corresponding updates about changes in banking rules and regulations ensure people receive timely advice.
Along with dispensing guidance, Dizdarević says counsellors also help clients negotiate directly with their lenders. This process can prove difficult – he cites a client who had visited multiple times before finally discussing the problem, a monthly loan payment of EUR 500. The counsellor said after he outlined options, the client approached the bank with a restructuring plan. The result? The lender cut the payment to EUR 25.
Markus Aschendorf, the chairman of the EFSE DF, visited Sarajevo to discuss the program with city workers, and he describes the impact. “This manual is a very important tool for empowering local communities so they can help their citizens better understand financial products and how to handle their personal finances. The EFSE DF, as a promoter of responsible finance practices in all the countries it serves, is proud to have contributed to this important guide.”
Deputy Mayor Deljkovic lauded the perseverance and commitment of counsellors like Dizdarević. She says many stay on duty well past quitting time so residents receive assistance. “I believe good ideas need good people to be realized,” she said.
And sometimes those people need the right tools, too.