Will the thousands of families, who are in an unfavorable social position because of the accumulated utility debts, be saved? Citizens’ associations and trade union organizations have been alarming for months that the inability to settle debts for various reasons has become a field in the most common and cruelest ways of violating basic human rights. Politics still shows no interest.
The Confederation of Trade Union Organizations, Citizens’ Associations Man Over Profits, No Pasaran and Glasen Tekstilec put their opinions in a draft law on the write-off of debts of natural persons arising from utility services, used before December 31, 2014. They submitted the law to the Parliament, and simultaneously announced that they would ask the Government to submit a recommendation to the public enterprises for writing off the interest on the remaining arrears.
According to the proposers, this includes 85 thousand families who pay obsolete debts that should not be paid at all. Those debts that were created five years ago are being written-off, demanding a solution in the framework set by the Law on Obligatory Relations. The proposed law refers to services with a one-year limitation period.
“The bill proposes the write-off of the debt of natural persons to utilities, that is, for electricity, water, heating, telephone etc. It is not acceptable to turn off water in the 21st century,” said Gligorova from the association Man over profits, according to which financial persecution of citizens must stop and that 100 thousand citizens pay virtual debt, which is why their survival is under threat.
In this way, according to her, the citizens’ budget would be eased and the payment operations would be accelerated. “If this is implemented, and we hope for understanding by the MPs, people could think about regular payments to creditors,” Gligorova said.
In European or Scandinavian countries, which are most often used as an example in creating of the Macedonian laws, she added, there are no enforcement agents, but when a citizen has unpaid debts, first a social worker comes at the door to locate the problem why the debt is not paid, and not an enforcement agent.
Citizens’ associations also blamed for unlawful antedating of bills by public companies that use court seals, which, they say, should be held accountable.
Recently, several MPs proposed a legal solution in the Assembly, which foresees the write-off of interest payments for debts for which there is a final court decision or a decision for enforcement. The law stipulates that only interest should be written off, but not for the notary fees and the enforcement agents.
“This law is very different from that law. We attended the public debate of the Finance and Budget Commission and then we indicated that we disagree with that law. That law allows for total robbery and is requires us to pay something that we absolutely claim that we should not pay,” said Marjan Risteski of the Confederation of Trade Union Organizations.
Due to the inability to pay one bill, lost or misplaced, one becomes a classic victim of debt slavery. The data from the Chamber of Enforcement Agents and the National Bank say enough about the massiveness of the problem and the need for solving it.
According to the 2017 annual report of the Chamber of Enforcement Agents in the last decade, there is a massive increase in the submitted enforcement requests. If in 2007 were submitted 30,098 requests, in 2017 the figure was a record 788,723.
And the number of blocked accounts is rapidly increasing. In December 2008, according to the National Bank data, 4,966 accounts were blocked in December, while in the same month last year the figure was 188,500. However, as noted in the draft law, the number of account holders is lower because one owner has multiple accounts. For example, in December 2017, the blocked accounts were owned by 80,462 people. This means that the same number of families were blocked.