Residents of 34 municipalities in the South East and South West Serbia are more satisfied with the work of local authorities and the quality of their lives, shows the results of the research financially supported by the European Union and the Government of Switzerland through European PROGRES development programme. As this is the third research cycle conducted in these municipalities, the first two were carried out in 2010 and 2013, it provides important findings that can serve as guidelines for further improvement of work of local governments, but also for monitoring the needs of the population, it was underlined at the presentations held in Vranje, Niš and Novi Pazar from 29 to 31 January 2018.
The results of the research, conducted with the support of the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) in October and November 2017 on a representative sample of 8,256 adult residents, show that there has been a constant upward trend in the number of people who feel the local authorities take their interests into account and provide services appropriate to their needs. This percentage stood at 22 percent in 2010, 26 percent in 2013, and currently is as high as 37 percent.
According to the findings, the respondents can now accomplish their business with local governments more quickly in comparison to the previous research. Namely, in 2010 and 2013 the numbers of those polled who felt they could complete their dealings with local authorities quickly stood was 27 and 22 percent, respectively, in this survey they number 35 percent.
Bojan Klačar from CeSID has said that 44 percent of respondents in this part of Serbia perceive agriculture as the driver of the economic development and therefore sector to be invested in most, followed by the light industry (22 percent), while for the improvement of living conditions, the majority of citizens think that investments should be focused on infrastructure, health sector, sewage and water supply, as well as support to socially vulnerable groups. The respondents consider poor infrastructure, stray dogs and crime as the main reasons for feeling unsafe.
"The majority of findings show upward trends, so the citizens are more positive in assessing the work of municipal services today, they have more trust in local institutions, whether it is the Mayor, the Municipal Assembly or the Municipal Council, and they finish their jobs faster in the municipality and certainly better evaluate the work of municipal officials, " Marko Vujačić, European PROGRES National Programme Manager said and underlined that the population recognized that local self-government was really becoming a citizen service.
"The survey showed that the population also has a somewhat better perception of the living standard, and today 35 percent of people say that they live well or assess their living standards as average, which is an increase compared to 2010 when this figure was 26 percent. However, there is six percent of people who say they live intolerably, which is a signal for local and national authorities, as well as development programmes such as European PROGRES, to continue supporting municipalities," Vujačić pointed out.
"We can notice trends of improvement, but certainly there is room for improvement of work of local self-government. For instance, 27 percent of respondents think that the procedures are complicated, while 81 percent believe that they are not adequately informed about the budget. It should also be taken into account that this research is based on subjective assessments, and real parameters such as wages that are 30 percent lower in this part of Serbia in comparison to the national average show that it is necessary to work on improving the standard of living ", emphasised Ivo Čolović from CeSID while presenting results.
According to the representatives of local self-governments, Mayor of Vranje, Slobodan Milenković and Assistant Mayor of Novi Pazar, Emir Aščerić, attending the presentation of the research, the results will provide solid guidelines for further improvement of work of local authorities, but also in defining development policies and projects aimed to contribute to a better life of the population.