Over 200 employees in the Gostivar public company “Komunalec” are without health insurance, since the municipality is struggling to pay monthly income due to the blocked budget. The quarrels and disagreements on the Gostivar political scene culminated in past few days, when councilors in the municipality did not get a chance to vote for the envisaged budget for 2018. The majority in the Council, which is led by SDSM and DUI, is on the opposite side of the mayor Arben Taravari, who won last year’s local election as a candidate from the Alliance for Albanians, which caused uncertainty in the lives of all citizens in the city. Now, they are making the last desperate attempts to reach a solution, and another meeting is scheduled for today at 16 o’clock, because, if there is no agreement by March 31, the Council will be dissolved, after which new election for councilors will be organized – but not for a new mayor.
“I am not optimistic that there will be an agreement, because the councilors from the ruling parties are under intense pressure, intimidation and threats from the headquarters in Skopje and Tetovo,” Mayor Taravari said.
He explains that the central government, through its people, blocks Gostivar in all possible fields. The municipality has no competences in the field of culture, and recently the credentials have been taken away in education, so that the mayor must not appoint and dismiss principals of primary and secondary schools, and similar announcements are received in the field of labor and social politics.
“All that could be blocked– they blocked. They want to destroy everything and everyone that is not with them. A typical example of the tyranny of a new regime. The draft budget of the councilors was sent on December 20 last year, and for the first time it was discussed only on March 5 this year. It was not even voted, although I insisted on voting, even if the outcome turned out negative. They do not let us do our jobs, they hold the Municipality hostage. We want to open four new kindergartens, to allocate subsidies, start paying our debt… I inherited a debt of 6.54 million euros in PE Komunalec, the city is needs to pay 3.5 million. Majority councilors do not propose their projects, ideas, plans, but their only goal is to block us. They want to have their revenge on me because I defeated their candidate Nevzat Bejta last year,” says Taravari for “Nezavisen/Independent”.
Gostivar is currently under temporary financing from the Ministry of Finance. A few weeks ago, Taravari, who was the health minister after the change of power in the country, sent an open letter to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in which he reminded him that they were together in the battle against the Gruevski-Ahmeti duo. He points out that due to the forced coalition with DUI, now they do not want either Albanians, Macedonians or Turks, alluding to about 100,000 inhabitants of Gostivar, who are left without funds.
“I received an answer from him. He told me that the letter was emotionally written. No, I’m not emotional, I am realistic. He was the mayor of Strumica in three terms, I guarantee that Gruevski did not perform such obstructions from the position of central government and did not do what he is doing to me now,” Taravari explains.
The council of the Municipality of Gostivar has 31 advisers, of which nine are DUI, seven are Alliance for Albanians, four are SDSM, three are VMRO-DPMNE, three are Turkish parties, two are from Prerodba, and one representative of the Roma community. A total of 16 of them support the cooperation between SDSM and DUI. The head of the council is Naser Musliu from the party Ali Ahmeti’s party.
“My job is to respect the rule-book and the procedure. At the session on March 5, there were 40 items on the agenda, with the first draft budget. Advisers from the parties that make up the majority gave additional budget proposals, which were supposed to be put to vote and to decide on them. But Mayor Taravari wanted the budget to be voted without additional proposals. He came to the hearing, it became late, and because of that I had to interrupt the session. It was nothing personal,” Musliu says.
Zoran Angelov from SDSM also assures that they are not fighting a personal battle against Taravari, to whom he immediately congratulated the victory of last year’s election.
“Such was the will of the citizens of Gostivar and we respect that. The problem is that in the temporary employment rate there are 12 million denars. We think that this is a lot of money, even legally there must not be so many employments. We are ready for cooperation, but we believe that these funds should be re-allocated to other projects,” said Angelov.
The budget for Gostivar for 2018 is projected at 16.8 million euros, which is 800.000 euros more than the one for the previous year. It is envisaged that two-thirds of the budget will be charged from transfers and from grants, followed by tax funds. Regarding expenditures, half of the money would be spent on salaries and allowances, and one-fourth for capital investments.
The first to suffer the consequences from the failure to pass the budget is the employees of the municipal administration, public enterprises and schools. For now, not even the municipality’s account can function. Due to the delay in the December bill, school employees boycotted the classes.