This selection of issues in the country, no matter how hard we try to make it a moderate one, leads to a conclusion that Macedonia is in a difficult political, social and economic situation, with no tangible solutions in sight. For the time being…
For his quick overview I made a selection of only three out of the many possible issues in order to draw a picture of current developments in the country. Logically, all these are important issues that have a serious impact on all other spheres of societal and political life in the country. As well as they influence the spheres tangled in this brief overview. I will start with the early start of the campaign for the local elections and will finish with the Prime Minister Gruevski’s open pessimism on country’s future. The bridge between these two important matters are, of course, money. A brief look at the budget situation of the country, promises nothing good in the foreseeable future. Let’s see what happens.
REGROUPING OF THE OPPOSITION AND BEGINNING OF THE ELECTION RACE
Local elections campaign started unofficially already at the beginning of this year, although they are supposed to be held in the beginning of 2013. The opposition is reuniting in a coalition “Together for Macedonia”, all opposition parties under one “flag”. This coalition is similar to the Serbian DOS, which was the critical factor that led to the fall of Slobodan Miloshevic’s dictatorship. These days the reunion of the right parties around VMRO NP of the ex -Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski is being round off, which has no common platform for now.
Meanwhile, the government has a lot of problems – no success in the economic-social issues sphere, the budget is rather empty, the petrol prices are rising and the state has no answer to many vital problems. Instead, the government publicized results of one more prearranged opinion poll to illustrate how popular it is. These polls usually “show” that the ruling party leads 2:1 before the opposition. An analyst called it a science fiction. On the other hand, as it seems, the opposition is certainly going to lose the elections in case they are held today particularly if regulations for fair and democratic elections are not set as soon as possible.
According to political analysts, the international community, such as OSCE Mission to Skopje, and the national Citizen Association MOST, put pressure on the government to clear voters’ lists and keep proposing stricter electoral rules, according to which the government should be disabled from using its mechanisms of dictating electoral results.
Regarding the problem of the voters’ lists, there are fascinating 1.7 million registered voters, despite the facts that there are only 1.3 million identification cards in Macedonia including underage citizens who are bearers of ID cards. The country’s population is 2 million. Rightwing opposition parties accused the ruling VMRO-DPMNE of electoral forgery in 2011, when dead people were “voting”, as well as people who have emigrated long ago. They also reported on a number of people voting twice, since they are registered in two different places of living.
As long as the government has undisputed power over media, there will be no fair and democratic climate for any decision made by people. We live in an atmosphere of continual attack of those media that even tried to decline from the governmental positions. Examples of various forms of pressure, control, manipulation or censorship are numerous.
Experts and opposition MPs, since the very beginning of defining of the annual budget, criticized the government’s disconnection from reality. Vice Prime Minister Stavreski insisted that the country will have a fantastic annual growth of 4.5 percent. This prognosis is far much higher than the estimates of all international financial institutions, as well as of the National Bank of Macedonia (NBM), which was 2.4 percent.
From October last year onwards, the country has a negative balance in the industrial growth, which clearly indicates that we are at least at the threshold of recession. Prime Minister Gruevski said it is easy for NBM to make “those” (lower) approximation, because it is not the NBM which is going to make a rebalance.
Revenues in the first months show that there is shortage in the budget (it is also seen in the practical acts of the government) and that until the end of the year, the shortage will be certainly much higher than officially predicted. It can be compensated only with further loans, as it happened already.
Rarely anyone noticed that the government withdrew EURO 25.8 million from the deposits in NBM in February. Additional six million euro have been withdrawn from the foreign currency deposits. This happened despite financial experts’ advice. Namely, foreign currency deposits may be managed in that manner only in case of servicing foreign debts, and not even then.
The civil servants had a growing problem to receive salaries until the government decided to make a rebalance of the budget, and increased the budget lines for their salaries and drastically decreased the lines in the health, capital investments, subventions in the area of development and NATO integration. Railway workers and others dependent on the state cashbox have already forgotten when they last received a salary.
In January, the government collected 146 million euro from taxes and there are just above 13 million euro as untaxed incomes. When it comes to untaxed incomes, the government plans to collect about 40 million euro from fines, legal and administrative taxes. Fines and penalties are extremely high and seem to be an important source for the government’s wallet.
THE PRIME MINISTER’S PESSIMISM
Maybe several days before the meeting with his Greek counterpart Lucas Papademos, Prime Minister Gruevski admitted that he has no great expectations from the process.
Gruevski openly expresses his pessimism on the name dispute and Euro-Atlantic future of the country. This pessimism falls in the same time when compromise is reached in the negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, which opened Serbia’s way to the EU. It also came in the same time as the reopening of the case of President Trajkovski’s tragic death. This all seems to be in favor of defocusing of the public attention and reinforce the stories about the world’s conspiracy against Macedonia.
It looks like if Prime Minister Gruevski is confused. Obviously, he needs to clarify with himself whether he wants to lead the country to the EU and NATO or not. If he wants to keep the EU and NATO integration course, he should better start with it. If not, he should state clearly what his real plans are.
Announcements such as “we will not get in, but we are still trying” are stories for little children.