“Every year, 3.5 percent of the funds in the budget of the MLSP are not distributed for social cases. It is an injustice that is carried out during an entire year, and each year social transfers to which social cases are entitled to like financial assistance for care of others and permanent financial assistance for one or two months, are all prolonged for the following year. Why are they doing this? Is there not enough money, or is it that not enough funds have been anticipated, or are they abusing the social welfare cases and redirecting the money to be able to pay for some other things that are not foreseen in the Law on Social Justice?” stated Samka Ibraimovski, President of the Party for Full Emancipation of Roma, in an interview for CIVIL Media.
CIVIL Media: What are the program goals of your party in terms of social justice?
Ibraimovski: The program positions of our party in the area of social justice in Republic of Macedonia are that, first of all, in Macedonia there is no social justice, but instead social injustice, which is very bad for a country and we believe that reforms need to be made. We have anticipated this in our program, and have also conveyed it to our coalition partners, in particular, to SDSM. We have included in the program as part of our demand for social reforms in terms of social justice. And as a former Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy, I believe that social justice in Macedonia does not exist, because socially disadvantaged categories of citizens are abused, and every year, 3.5 percent of the funds in the budget of the MLSP are not distributed for social cases. It is one of the injustices that are made during an entire year, and each year social transfers to which social cases are entitled to, financial assistance for care of others, permanent financial assistance for one or two months, are all prolonged for the following year. Why are they doing this? Is there not enough money, or not enough funds have been anticipated, or are they abusing the social welfare cases and redirecting the money to be able to pay for some other things that are not foreseen in the Law on Social Justice?
CIVIL Media: What are your realizations on the abuse of socially disadvantaged categories of citizens in the political, or electoral context?
Ibraimovski: Our understanding is that they are being abused at the moment, with manipulations that they will cancel their social assistance, or that will not receive money for a third child, if the opposition comes to power... They are carrying out many manipulations, they are maintaining communications with people who are inclined on their side, or they hold debates with citizens and tell them: "Look, we are fighting, we are increasing social assistance". Even though that means that – for 2,000 denars, it is only an increase of 100 denars, which is silly... And the person on social welfare says to himself, "I would spend 100 denars just to get off a taxi, and my social assistance has increased for only 100 denars". They are playing with the socially disadvantaged categories of citizens, and they are abusing them by giving them one-time financial assistance for election day. They did this at the last elections, I have knowledge from my members and activists that one-time financial assistance in the amount of 500 denars, but also 300 and 600 denars, were being handed, depending on the resistance given by those on social welfare. They were given more, if they requested more. There have been many abuses, and that is why we, as an opposition addressed that Ministry 100 days before the elections, precisely because of the abuses with the distribution of one-time financial assistance. There are photos and witnesses who will testify that they had received one-time financial assistance. This cannot be legally handed out on the street, but they did it anyway.
CIVIL Media: Which promises for social justice are realistic, and which promises are a kind of political corruption, or are playing with the expectations of the voters?
Ibraimovski: Regarding the promises for social justice, we are offering in our program promises that in reality can be realized, and that is for the compensations for the disadvantaged categories of citizens to at least reach the level of the minimum salary. This is anticipated within PCER’s program and also within the program of our coalition partner SDSM... These are realistic and achievable offers, although someone said: how is it now that you have the money to increase social welfare? We will increase it with the money they have stolen, because they will have to return them. And that amounts to two budgets of the Republic of Macedonia - stolen money from the state. So, with two budgets, when we will collect all the money and return it back to the country, we will have enough for social welfare and pensioners, and also for new jobs... And also to help every businessman who wants to open a new business, or to help those "stuck" with credits, to give them financial consolidation, to allow them to survive in their business ... This will also help the economy and the socially disadvantaged categories of citizens and the poorest, through the construction of social housing... These are realistic and achievable things, because the money has been stolen from the state, that is a fact. And the National Bank has also said that there is a 4.5 billion euros outflow from the country into tax havens.
The government is now making promises that are actually corruption. It is promising everything, it promises to give assistance, that they will employ one family member on social welfare, that they will increase pensions by 5 percent, and where will they find the money for this increase? It is better for pensioners to have continuous pensions, than to be put at risk of not receiving pensions. The Pension Fund is indebted and is now in a difficult situation, in intensive care, and we do not know when it will die. And experts predict that following 2016 there will be many difficulties in the pension fund.
The government says that they have brought many foreign companies in the country and that many people are getting employed, if so, then where is the money intended for the pension fund going. The mistake is in that they are exempting them from paying contributions for each employee, which means they only come here to get what is best for them! They do not pay contributions for pension and disability, they are exempted from personal taxes, all they have to do is pay salaries. Once they notice that something is not running smoothly, they immediately leave. This is the corruption that the government is doing, they are promising everything, but do not have a way and the space to achieve all of that because there is no money in the budget ...
CIVIL Media: What are the social and political consequences of these abuses?
Ibraimovski: In 2005, when I was a deputy minister in the MLSP, SDSM was in power then, social assistance in the amount of 5.000 denars was distributed, and with that money 160 liters of cooking oil could be bought. And now with the 3.000 denars of social assistance I would like to see someone buy 160 liters of oil. There is no chance, and that is the comparison from 2005, and now... We filed charges against former minister Dime Spasov for cancelling social assistance of part of those beneficiaries who received money from abroad through Western Union. When did we submit the application? Seven – eight months have already passed, and there is not a word from them. Everything there has metastated, the whole institution! There is no one you can turn to, no one to complain to, there is no democracy, no justice... That is why I said, we have no social justice here, here we have social injustice ...