As of Monday, thousands of the poorest citizens in Croatia will have their debts wiped clean. The program, named “fresh start” by the government, plans to help approximately 317,000 citizens whose bank accounts have been blocked as a result of their debts. The country has been in a six-year recession and the large number of indebted citizens has placed a major economic burden on the country. In order to qualify for forgiveness, citizens must have a debt lower than 35,000 kuna ($5100) and have a monthly income less than 1,250 kuna ($138). The applicants are also not allowed to own any property or have any savings. Economists regard the program as unprecedented and exceptional. Even though it will cost the Croatian government between 31 and 300 million dollars, the country expects economic long-term benefits that will outweigh the short-term costs. Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has convinced public and private companies, telecom providers, and banks to clear some of the citizens debts, and they will not be refunded for their losses.
Contributor: Johanna Hartman