Budget and corruption: bigger for greater!

Ilo Trajkovski
Political analyst

Enough is enough! Just counting the latest scandalous political events provokes restlessness and ignites feelings of insecurity and mistrust among the citizens. The forced change of the Constitution despite the unsuccessful referendum, the fabrication of a two-thirds parliamentary majority, an escape from justice of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the detention of three of his closest associates and one of the biggest businessmen associated with them. And, on top of all, this new budget, much bigger than last year.

The more diligent apologists of the government will say that the adoption of the budget has nothing to do with the previous events. It just works, they would say, for a random time match. And indeed it does. This time each year the procedure for passing the state budget is under way. By contrast, not every year this time we change the constitution, the parliamentary majority is being fabricated, prime ministers are running away, former ministers and businessmen are being detained. This is the first season of bringing the state budget parallel with so many in number and so many emotionally and legally strong “inspirational”, political events. But it is also true that we have changed the constitution under coercion in the past as well, that former members of the Parliament were “buying” MPs for securing government projects, and it is true that former prime ministers remained unpunished.

All this is true, as is the correct thesis contained in the title of this my public consideration which the apologists will welcome as another confirmation of their warning that there are no independent people, but only their own and their party enemies. While the headline claims that the increase in this year’s state budget is a field for even greater political corruption. This is only a logical conclusion based on the comparison of the three statistical series of data for our country for the period from 2006 to 2017/18. The first is the time series of state budgets, the second is the time series of the ranks of perceived corruption and the third time series of the index of democracy in our country. The first series is compiled with insights into the data that are regularly published by the State Statistical Office, but also by the Ministry of Finance. The second series with insights into the annual reports of Transparency International and The Economist’s third annual reports. The analysis of the movements of these three series shows that with the increase in the size of the state budget of the Republic of Macedonia, the index of perceived corruption is growing, while the index for the country’s democracy is declining. This means that the more money available, our politicians are so more corrupt and in that they are so less democratic. On the citizens’ side, this correlation means that the more money they allocate for the state budget, the less they get back in the form of public services and the less they have their voices heard.

To confirm this, I will point out the following three facts. In 2007, a state budget of 2.3 billion euros was spent, which was 63 percent higher than the 2005 budget. In parallel, in 2007, Transparency International, according to the Index of Perceived Corruption, registered the Republic of Macedonia on 84th place (out of 179 countries in the world), and the British the Economist newspaper, according to the index of democracy, registered Macedonia on the decent 68th place (out of 167). After these relatively favorable country ratings in 2007, after ten years, in 2017 we are falling. According to the index of perceived corruption, we fell to 107th place (in the company of Vietnam), and according to the index of democracy at 88th place (in the company of Bolivia). In the first case decline by 23, and in the second by 20 places lower. So, so many spots away from the always-first Norway, Denmark or New Zealand, for example, and spots closer to the last countries on the list, such as Somalia and North Korea. It’s astonishing that in the same year (2017) a state budget that is 59 percent more than the one in 2007 was spent! So, a bigger budget means greater corruption and less democratic power!

If this logic holds water, then the new budget for 2019, which, according to the Government’s proposal, is considerably greater than that of this passing year (2018) can be read as a ground for further growth of corruption and a decline in democracy. In addition to this go more indicators. In addition to numerous corruption cases, we welcome the new enlarged budget without an anti-corruption commission, the mandate of the State Election Commission, originally chosen as a temporary one, has been prolonged for two years, reforms to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and the prosecution await the realization of the Government’s priorities. In such a context, it is logical to assume that without an anti-corruption commission, without an independent judiciary and without an independent prosecution, the larger budget may bring about five percent wages, here and there, but it will surely bring more corruption and less democracy anywhere.

In order not to happen, it is necessary to take better care of the bigger budget. To establish and free the constitutionally and legally established institutions that will guarantee transparency, accountability and responsibility, in one word rule the law equally for all. To this end, the strengthening of the independence (financial and political) of the judiciary and the prosecution should become the first priority. That is what opens the door to the EU. Regarding this challenge, we will not wait long. Soon, perhaps tomorrow, we will be convinced of the treatment of this power of the judiciary and the prosecution. The Board of Directors of the Academy for Judges and Prosecutors should elect a director. The composition of the Committee has been recently formed. Only a miracle can shake party positions from the set trajectory. But miracles happen by chance. There is nothing left to chance here. As an author with a sense of responsibility toward objectivity I will retreat from public speech if this perception proves to be incorrect. On the possible misconception, however, I will celebrate it more than the confirmation of the forecast.

The choice, they say, was reduced between a candidate without passing a bar exam, but a favorite and recommended by the government and a candidate with a nationally and internationally proven judicial integrity, but party-independent. The judges and prosecutors in the Board of Directors, as well as all other institutions relevant to the functioning of the justice system, are to show us how the state budget will be spent and, therefore, how they will rank us on corruption and democracy lists.

Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik