Vice President of VMRO-DPMNE
The privilege that I have to write my column on the pages of Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper every other Wednesday always represents a challenge to write something good, new and something that will continue to be commented days after the column was published. A lack of topics happens sometimes, or for the topics to be already too worn out in the public eye, so that there is nothing new in them. This time I’m facing the opposite, there are too many topics, too many happenings and one simply does not know which one to open. But what is common to all these topics is that the feeling among many people that we are in the midst of complete chaos and disorder without a clear vision of the future is getting deeper and deeper.
This is not my personal exaggeration, as politicians are often known to exaggerate when they are in opposition. I even try to get away from this cliché and I rarely use expressions or topics that suggest that everything is wrong and nothing goes ahead. It is well-known game of setting things in either black or white, when you are in power everything is fine, when you are in opposition everything is black. It is not so! And it only leads to unnecessary polarization. But unfortunately in the past few weeks there is a culmination of the feeling that Macedonia has no clear direction and a clear future of where it goes, so I decided to write about this particular topic.
When this government was formed there were several basic postulates that were reduced to a better and indirect life, and a common denominator was the integration into NATO and the EU by changing the name. For them, the name change was a magic wand that would solve all the problems. The people believe it. And they expected 500 euros of average salary, justice for all, better healthcare, better education, social protection and a pleasant life. What is happening is the opposite of it, there is no segment in which it does not go back, there is no area in which there isn’t complete disappointment and a fiasco. Thus, a higher salary of 500 euros never happened, but starting January 1st there will be new taxes, which, although presented as a tax for the richest, will apply to all, because the hidden new taxes that the government hides will hit more than 40 percent of the population in Macedonia, mostly the youngest and most ambitious citizens, unfortunately.
It is seems futile to talk about healthcare, education and social affairs. Every day we read about another apparatus not working, that the sick have nowhere to go to be treated, that everyone that is more capable and more professional leaves the country, such as doctors and nurses. As well as the promises of big investments and salaries of over 100,000 denars are just a distant dream. The education is also sinking, there is no clear concept what branches we want to develop and what kind of personnel we want Macedonia to have. So the whole world is trying to catch up with new technologies, while in Macedonia there is an attempt to bring down the University of Information Technologies and Sciences in Ohrid, and those who earn from their skills and knowledge – IT engineers, developers, freelancers iwill have increased tax from 10 to 18 percent and will be additionally obliged to pay VAT by 18 percent. This results in these young ambitious people leaving the country. As for the social welfare, I do not even want to talk about the blow that all employers take because they cannot find workers, and it will get even harder in the future, because the government populist promises social assistance at the level of the minimum wage. Well, a logical question posed: Who would want to work eight hours every day, when they could be sitting at home and get the same amount of money, plus do some illegal work for an additional income.
These policies lead to only two things – emigration from the country and stimulating the shadow economy. Both devastating for the future of Macedonia.
In the area of rule of law, any comment would be futile. This kind of playing with the law and justice has not occurred even in the dark days of communism. All the fears that we have warned about over the past few months are unfortunately coming true – that the law and the truth are only for the purpose of achieving the political goals of SDSM and the government.
EU integration is becoming a distant dream. I want to publicly warn through these lines that if Macedonia continues with this low level of implemented reforms, unfortunately, the next year in June will not receive a date for starting EU membership negotiations! Regardless of the name change, the low level of reform implementation is currently the main brake Macedonia is moving towards the EU. Through this space I have in Nezavisen Vesnik I warned last spring that even if the government and Zaev agree to change the name, they will not get a date for accession talks if they do not implement the reforms, and I also said that the process deliberately puts Macedonia and Albania in same group. I was told then that it was impossible, but, unfortunately, this impossible thing became reality in June, when Zaev signed the name change, but did not get a date for negotiations. I would like you to keep in mind that seven months earlier I warned that if Macedonia continues with such a low level of reform, although it changed its name to North Macedonia, humiliated and down on its knees, it will not get a date for the start of accession talks in June 2019. I will be very happy if the government and Zaev prove me wrong with their work and not let my prediction come true. It will be in Macedonia’s best interest. But as things stand now – It’s highly unlikely!
In the same context of bad predictions and apathy among the people I would like to share another prediction that I am afraid it could come true, and I hope it will not. Regardless of Zaev changing the country’s name in North Macedonia, the economy not only does not go forward, it is regressing, the fiscal discipline is reducing and Zaev together with Finance Minister Dragan Tevdovski is on the seemingly easiest, but the most dangerous step – increasing taxes and introducing new ones. Namely, the introduction of a new tax on the interest rates on deposits in banks is expected to create a negative effect on depositors. Interest rates on deposits, especially if they are foreign currencies and are now very low and are below one percent, which does not cover even the annual inflation, if this is added to the tax of 15 percent, as well as the unstable political situation it is expected that a large part of the citizens will withdraw their deposits from banks. It is a huge threat to several smaller banks that can face serious problems in their functioning, and even bankruptcy, which, if it happens, will have unpredictable consequences for the economy. I do not wish this to happen and therefore I publicly urge the government to withdraw its proposal to increase taxes and introduce new ones. If the government does not do this, then VMRO-DPMNE, after winning the next parliamentary elections and forming a government, will abolish it at the first parliamentary session.
That is why I say that in the past few weeks the culmination of the feeling that Macedonia has no clear direction and a clear future of where it goes. The promises that the name change is a magic wand that will solve everything are falling through and ultimately only result in the state only having a new name, but nothing will get better, which will further increase frustrations. I urge serious consideration of my predictions about EU integration and the situation in the financial sector. If we only see it as an opposition, it suits us because it will be faster and easier and more convincing way to win the next elections, but our primary goal is the well-being of the citizens of Macedonia! For them to be happy and see their future right here!
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik