A Day in the Life of ERP Coordinators
The Economic Reform Programme (ERP) serves as a vital document in the economic dialogue between the EC and candidates and potential candidates. It has been prepared annually since 2014 and plays a crucial role in coordinating the participation of future members in the EU's economic policy. In order to step in the shoes of those who directly work with the ERP, we had a conversation with the three members of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian (BiH) ERP Coordination team: Amina Mulabdić, Expert Associate at the Directorate for Economic Planning (DEP), Maja Perić, Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Srpska, and Naida Damadzić, Statistics Analyst at the Development Programming Institute of the Federation of BiH.
Please describe your typical day at work.
Naida: After my morning routine, a day at work greatly depends on the ERP activities. So for me, there are no typical or common workdays. Every day brings new challenges and activities. Upon arrival, I usually check my e-mails and messages, review tasks for the day, and determine priorities if there is an ERP activity with a short deadline or any unfinished tasks. After I finish all priority assignments and occasional short staff meetings, I usually work on collecting and analyzing data for macroeconomic reports that are part of my daily work.
Amina: My “typical” working day is anything but. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have few typical days. Every morning I think to myself, “What could be in store today?”
Usually I start my working day at 08:00, turning on my computer and looking over the local and international news. As soon as Outlook is up and running, I check my e-mails and respond to those that do not need additional clarification by my director, who is the State Coordinator of the ERP of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am Technical Coordinator.
Then I may have a meeting, live or online, and after that, my colleague Helena and myself have a “huddle” brainstorming to reflect on the latest or new challenges and ideas. Very frequently, the director joins us and after the huddle, we move on to executing what we agreed on. This is already a well-oiled machine, so usually no surprises there. At the end of the workday, I finish up and dot my i's, and then it is time to go home.
Maja: I would dare to say that working at the Ministry of Finance is always an interesting experience and a journey, since it gives you a slightly different perspective for understanding the broader picture of the economic situation in the country. On the other hand, it demands professional and prompt response on a daily basis, which at the same time helps develop professionally and gain new knowledge.
In line with the delegated responsibilities, I am in charge for the coordination and implementation of all the activities at the Department for Programming and Coordination of EU Financial Assistance. I have also been appointed as coordinator for the preparation of the ERP, which means that I actively participate in the implementation of all the phases in the process. This implies quite a number of calls and written communication on a daily basis, which I try to manage as efficiently as possible.
As coordinator of all the activities at the Ministry of Finance related to the accession process, I am a member of several working groups for European integration established under SAA and the decision on the system of coordination of the European integration process in BiH, including the working group for monitoring the implementation of the Comprehensive PFM Strategy, which brings a lot of dynamics every day. To that extent, we are preparing for the Sub-committee on Transport, Energy, Environment and Regional Development, as well as the Special Group on Public Administration Reform (PAR).
What is the most exciting element of the ERP process for you?
Naida: Knowing that the ERP is the most important document for a country aspiring for EU membership, the ERP preparation process is a very unique and challenging task for any state administration in candidate as well as potential candidate countries. In BiH, a candidate country, the ERP preparation and coordination process is pretty complex, considering our state regulation, and has its own dynamics and challenges.
In accordance with the decentralized management and planning system in BiH, the coordination of the ERP BiH preparation was given to the DEP, more precisely to the entity level coordinating institution Development Planning Institute (DPI) of the Federation of BiH. My assignments as entity ERP coordinator assistant includes communication and coordination with line ministries, including technical support and assistance. For me, the most exciting element in the ERP preparation cycle is how to make current officials interested in getting involved in ERP development and how to keep them committed to the process. Also how to attract new, young people, keeping in mind the importance of structural reforms for BiH and knowing that ERP preparation is a rollover process.
Amina: The ERP is a very dynamic and unpredictable process. What I find most exciting is seeing the progression of stakeholders from a fixed mentality to a more flexible policy-driven mindset. It is not a very common occurrence, but when it happens, it makes all of my work worth it. In addition, I am partial to the multiple levels of communications throughout the ERP process, with different manners of conduct at various stages. This keeps the process interesting and demands a type of stamina to endure the difficulties that may arise on the way.
Maja: For me, the most exciting moment would be the moment we deliver the ERP to the European Commission. This means that we have managed to organize and prepare this quite important but complex document.
Personally, I enjoy each element of the process. Maybe one exciting moment is the very beginning when we receive the new Guidelines and organize a kick-off meeting with the line ministries to agree upon the milestones and the timeframes for each specific phase. Usually, this happens after summer holidays and we all are enthusiastic. I have to say though that at the end of the process, the ERP Coordinator is not the most favorite person that calls or e-mails you.
A lot of activities are prepared at the Ministry of Finance but I also have to praise the efforts of the line ministries, especially in preparation of Chapter 5.
What are the most meaningful lessons from working in the ERP process throughout the years?
Naida: The ERP process itself represents the coordination of economic policies at different levels. It is a specific platform for exchanging good practices, policy responses and recommendations between participants, which is extremely relevant in periods of crises.
The ERP often aims to address the existing challenges and inefficiencies in a national economic system. This presents an opportunity for positive changes and improvements, which can be exciting for those who believe in the potential for a better economic future of BiH. This can lead to the development of new industries, job opportunities, and increased productivity. Governments and policymakers can learn from the experiences of other countries and adapt successful policies to their own context. This process of learning and adaptation can also be exciting, as it allows exploration of new ideas and has potential for positive outcomes. This long-term process of coordinating the national economic reform program has taught me meaningful and life-changing lessons, including from many workshops organized by the CEF that greatly helped me understand the importance of the whole process.
- Write everything down. Every meeting, every encounter; keep logs and notes throughout the process. You never know when you might need to look back.
- Plan ahead. But expect things to not go according to the plan. Managing your expectations is essential to keep your motivation going throughout the process. One must always have a plan B (even C).
- If you fail, try again. And keep trying. Not every solution is simple and easy to execute. Sometimes the lesson can be found in the failed attempt in order to eventually succeed.
- People are the process. No matter how formal a process is, it is people who make it or break it. I strive to seek out positive-minded people with a “can-do” attitude. Several times throughout my experience in the ERP process, I have witnessed and partaken in successful endeavors that first seemed impossible to achieve. The secret ingredient is always people.
Maja: The ERP is a joint effort of quite a number of people, and good coordination is a key for a successful process. Being one of the coordinators, I realized that in order to deliver a quality document, you have to start the process timely. You should also have an informed and motivated group of people that understand the overall objective of the activities that we are engaged in. This is a group activity, and – similar to group sports – in order to have a winning team, you should have good and motivated individuals, excellent communication in the team, and, last but not least, a good coach.