Saturday, 15 June 2019
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

Almost a third of Croatian citizens believe that they are living under high levels of stress, according to a new survey Gallup. Although the Mediterranean laidback lifestyle may look care free and simple, it is clearly more stressful than it appears.

The research shows that the age group between 18 and 49 years-old is the most vulnerable to anxiety and in total 31 percent of the people questioned said they suffered from high levels of stress.

Whilst Croatia’s 31 percent might seem high it is still well below many other European countries, Greece recorded the highest levels in the Gallup survey with a whopping 59 percent of the population feeling under pressure. And the US is clearly a stressful place to live and work with 55 percent saying they suffered.

According to the latest survey by the popular website “Njuškalo”, conducted on a sample of 156,000 properties, the prices of apartments and homes over the past year rose by more than eight and a half percent. And the capital, Zagreb, is seeing a boom in the real estate business with prices soaring recently. The average price of an apartment in April in Zagreb has for the first time ever broke the 2,000 Euros per metre squared ceiling.

The increase in property prices throughout Croatia marked the 40 month in a row that prices have risen, or in other words since the beginning of 2016. In fact, apartment prices in Zagreb have risen by 11 percent since the beginning of this year.

Zagreb isn’t the only Croatian city to see house prices increase, Split, Dubrovnik and most of the cities along the Dalmatian coastline have seen price rises, Dubrovnik has the highest real estate prices in the country.

And it isn’t only real estate market in the capital that has seen a jump in prices the rental market has also experienced prices increase. The average rental price in the capital for an apartment is now 473 Euros.

Dubrovnik Airport is having a very busy start to 2019 with every month of the year seeing an increase in passenger numbers. April saw the Dubrovnik Airport register a massive 39 percent increase in passenger numbers compared to the same month from last year, and it handled just over 210,000 passengers.

From the beginning of the year until the end of April 328,771 passengers have travelled through the airport, a whopping increase of almost 34 percent over the same period from 2018. This increase represents an increase of just over 83,000 passengers when compared with 2018.

In January the Dubrovnik Airport handled 26,323 passengers, up 18.1 percent on last year, in February 33,765 passengers, an increase of 40.3 percent and in March 57,880 passengers, an increase of 21.4 percent.

The Dubrovnik – Neretva County is certainly having a fantastic start to 2019 in terms of tourism numbers with figures just in for April showing a massive increase in foreign tourists. In April 2019 the Dubrovnik – Neretva County saw an increase of 22 percent in the number of tourists when compared to April 2018.

And the number of overnight stays also increased impressively with 36 percent more guests staying overnight in the county this April in comparison to last year. In April there were 167,204 tourists in the county and 479,182 overnight stays were achieved.

Since the beginning of the year the number of tourists visiting the county has increased by a whopping 37 percent when compared with the same time period from 2018. In the first four months of this year there were 622,394 overnight stays and 281,726 tourist arrivals.

Most of the overnight stays were made by guests from Croatia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States, France and Finland. Interestingly from the beginning of the year until the end of April there was a massive increase in the number of German tourists by over 300 percent, with 37,532 arriving in the first four months. The number of Swedish and Dutch tourists also increased massively by over 200 percent, and there were 400 percent more Belgium guests.


The plan of extending the tourist season in Dubrovnik is clearly working if we are to believe these new figures. However, it could also be a case that more owners of private apartments and villas and actually registering their guests, which they might not have done in previous years to avoid paying taxes. Whilst the number of international flights to Dubrovnik throughout the winter has certainly increased it is difficult to connect these extra passengers with such a large jump in visitor numbers.

Given that the start of the year is traditionally the hardest period to attract guests to the county such a good start to 2019 will undoubtedly mean another record breaking year.

 

The International Week of Nurses is being held from the 5th to the 12th of May, with the message that the nursing profession has an important place in every advanced society. Croatia should do everything possible to follow the lead of more advanced EU members are stop the flow of nursing staff out of the country.

"Croatia has 38,000 nurses and medical technicians, and although they are the most numerous in the country’s health care system, their position is not satisfactory. It is estimated that there are about 12,000 nurses missing in the health system, and this disadvantage is an additional burden for nurses working at the primary, secondary or tertiary health care," commented the President of the Croatian National Association of Nurses, Adriano Friganovic.

He notes that the education of nurses has experienced a rise in the past 15 years, but the Ministry of Health's qualifications have not followed the changes in the education system, and inadequate labour conditions, poor wages and non-recognition of qualifications are the major reasons for the migration of nurses to other EU countries.

The tenth annual second hand sale in Dubrovnik comes to a close today, but it isn’t too late to find a bargain or two. The Dubrovnik Foreign Circle traditionally organises the second hand sale in the city and this year it is being held in the Grand Park Hotel in Lapad.

The sale started on the 1st of May and today, Sunday the 5th of May, is the final day. All proceeds from this humanitarian sale will go towards local charities. So why not use this rainy and overcast Sunday to browse through the abundant offer of clothes, toys, household goods, shoes and much more at the second hand sale today. The sale opens at 11:00 am and finishes at 6:00 pm.

One of the largest banks in Croatia, Zagrebačka Banka, is turning its back on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. The Zagreb bank, which is part of the UniCredit Group, has announced that from the 1st of June this year it will completely abandon these forms of social media.

This move comes as a result of last year's huge argument between the world’s largest social network and the Italian bank UniCredit, after customer’s private details were leaked through Facebook.

The group decided to discontinue Facebook as an advertising platform in 2018 because of countless data scandals, but now they have decided to abandon the platform entirely and will become the first Croatian bank to stop using Facebook.

Zagrebačka Banka has just over 55,000 Likes on Facebook and the whole UniCredit group has 555,000 followers. They have announced that they will continue to use other social media platforms, such as Twitter and YouTube.

And I thought I had done enough by learning one crazily difficult language, it seems I was wrong. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Croatia (PRC), the 24th province of the Asian motherland. And with a population of only 4 million PRC is the least populated of all the Chinese provinces, only Qinghai with 5.7 million can compare in size, with many provinces over 60 million. Yes, it is time for me to learn another language, Chinese, or more precisely Mandarin.

We are slowly being swallowed up by the Asian giant. Croatia is supposed to be a member of the European Union and not the National People's Congress. However, I am getting the feeling that whenever we need help we are turning East and not West. Not only were we the host of a mega Chinese congress, in which Premiers from all over the region came with hopes of investment from China, but we are also home to a Chinese owned hotel and the biggest Chinese investment in the Croatia, the Peljesac Bridge.

And don’t presume that the Chinese have chosen Croatia as a partner because they love our coastline or have a taste for Rožata. We are one tiny piece in a much bigger plan.

From highways in Pakistan, railways in Kazakhstan and ports in Sri Lanka, the trillion-dollar plan nicknamed Belt Road Initiative. Basically it’s a plan to reroute global trade and the Chinese plan to become the world’s superpower. Romantically it is linked with the former Silk Road but there is no real romance behind the project. They are loaning billions and billions of dollars to countries that will probably never be able to pay the money back. But they are buying power and influence. Italy have recently got on-board with by signing the “Silk Road Pact” earlier this year becoming the first of the G7 countries to jump into bed with the Asian giant. But as public debts in Italy are even worse than in Croatia, sorry the People’s Republic of Croatia, it is easy to see why they are interested in a few billion Yen.

It started back in 2013 when Chinese President, Xi Jinping, stated that “We should take an innovative approach and jointly build an economic belt along the Silk Road.” The first public mention of the Chinese masterplan. And the plan seems to be going full steam ahead. From a new health clinic, two football stadiums and now interest in purchasing Croatia’s ailing shipbuilding industry, we will soon be part of the global jigsaw.

And on a side note it would seem that Chinese business is lacking in creativity, at least when it comes to naming their companies. The Peljesac Bridge is being constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, whilst our shipyards could soon be bought by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation. Maybe this is a Chinese custom, to name companies directly after what they actually do. They probably don’t have McDonalds or Starbucks in Beijing, instead the China Hamburger Corporation and the China Coffee Corporation.

So I have spent all this time learning Croatian when I should have been learning Mandarin. As the new Silk Road ploughs right through our county think of all the new business opportunities if I was fluent. And will this new shipyard case be only a reflection of the future? When the government is in trouble with another failing public, or indeed private business, will they continue to go cap in hand to China? I am guessing that the EU, of which our government is a huge fan, is far from pleased with the current state of closeness. After all they pretty much funded the Peljesac Bridge and all those millions of Euros are now heading East.

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build bridges,” states an ancient Chinese proverb. Are you listening Mr. Trump? For the Chinese are not only building bridges but they are building an economic future, and we are inside their story for world domination, whether we like it or not.

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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