It’s no secret that I have almost zero respect for Romanian journalists and bloggers. But I am starting to get a serious writer crush on Moldovan journalist Vitalie Calugareanu, who has been writing (literally!) the only decent analysis I’ve seen anywhere in the Romanian language on what’s going on in the Republic of Moldova.
Because his latest article is so good, I decided to translate 90% of it in English just in case one of the IMF’s representatives reads my humble blog.
Any and all mistakes are mine.
Watch Out, Here Comes the IMF!
A team of experts from the IMF is in Chisinau from February 23-29 to investigate the economic and macro-economic political course of the new government [of Moldova].
The IMF’s visit coincides with the efforts of the oligarchs in power – the men who installed Pavel Filip in the Prime Minister’s post – to seize control of key areas of power that were previously outside of their control, all in a calculated political effort to give key roles to loyal party members.
How Much Will Keeping the Oligarchs in Power Cost Moldovans?
Immediately following the investiture of the new government, and right after Romania, the European Union, the IMF, the World Bank and the United States declared that all future financing was dependent on the Republic of Moldova implementing real reform as part of the conditions of the EU Association Agreement, the government in Chisinau has begun a series of economic miracles.
Fuel is now cheaper and tariffs on some services have been lowered. The government further announced that pensions will be increased. On top of all that, starting on February 20, shops in Chisinau (but not in other cities) have begun to sell “community bread” once again, bread which lists at the super low price of just 3 lei (13 eurocents) a loaf. All these miracles in a country that still doesn’t have a budget for this year (2016). Just a month ago, the authorities announced that they had no money to pay either pensions or salaries [of government employees] for the month of February.
In a bold move, the largest bread manufacturer in the country, Franzeluta, majority-owned by the government, and which underwent a change in management after the current government came to power, is now selling “community bread” on credit. TV stations owned by the oligarchs in power have begun to laud the return of “community bread” to the shelves as proof positive of the successful economic policies implemented by the current government.
Comfort for Prosecutors on Europe’s Dime
Even though the new Finance Minister announced at the beginning of his term that “the government budget no longer can cover expenditures for paying pensions and salaries” and that “the government will immediately freeze all purchases and won’t buy anything whatsoever, not even pens, furniture or computers”, investigative journalists in Chisinau have revealed that the Prosecutor General’s office recently purchased 10 Skoda Octavia cars for their prosecutors and three Skoda Superb cars for assistant prosecutors general for a total of 5 million Moldovan lei [228 thousand Euros]. The Prosecutor General’s Mercedes was replaced with a luxury BMW for approximately 1 million Moldovan lei [46 thousand Euros].
These recent purchases do not show up anywhere on the website of the National Agency for Public Acquisitions. In 2014, the Prosecutor General’s office purchased 22 cars for a total of 4.9 million Moldovan lei, all with money given by the European Union “for the purpose of implementing strategic reforms in the judicial sector.”
At the end of 2015, using both European and [Moldovan] government money, the Prosecutor General’s office bought computers for their prosecutors for a total of 4.5 million lei as well as 2000 office chairs valued at 500 thousand lei.
The White House in Moldova is More Luxurious Than the American Version
Last week, Moldovan journalists used drone surveillance footage to demonstrate the luxurious living conditions that many state officials enjoy, men whose servitude towards the ruling oligarchs has allowed them to seize power in Moldova. One of the most faithful of these political servants lives in a house that is a copy of the White House in Washington, only the owner cut down 40 hectares of forest on his property to add to his personal comfort.
This palace [the Chisinau “White House”] was built in a single year but the owner, who is a deputy in Parliament [Democratic Party member Constantin Botnari], received a salary last year of approximately 7500 Moldovan lei a month, or approximately 340 euros. The law forbids members of Parliament from receiving income from any other source during the time that they serve in office.
[Video and article in Romanian about this palace here]
Everything is Topsy-Turvy in Chisinau
The primary conditions on which Moldova’s development partners have put on unblocking future credit include: removing the justice system and investigators from under political control, the de-monopolization of the media, and new and improved legislation of the financial-banking sector (to avoid future acts of large scale theft such as occurred in 2014) and to install a professional and apolitical leadership in control of the National Bank of Moldova.
Two weeks ago, in the face of noisy protest, the Supreme Council of Magistrates re-elected Mihai Poalelungi as president of the Supreme Court. The local press reported that Poalelungi would not slavishly serve the ruling oligarchs but Tatiana Raducanu, the sole member of the Supreme Council of Magistrates who voted against Mihai Poalelungi, stated that he [Poalelungi] “has passively assisted the implementation of highly dubious court rulings”.
Smoke and Mirrors in the Media
Also just two weeks ago, the Pavel Filip government rejected an initiative to de-monopolize the media in the country. Astonishingly, according to press reports, the 7 TV and radio channels already owned by the oligarchs (four of which are national networks) were increased to 9 after the rulers of the country bought two more television channels. All this after Moldova’s development partners have repeatedly urged that the media market in the country be de-monopolized.
The Prime Suspect Living High on the Hog on Public Money
Nobody in power these days is even seriously discussing implementing legal reforms to the financial and banking sector despite the fact that this is a key condition of foreign donors. In fact, the subject is not even being discussed as businessman Ilan Shor, the prime suspect in the “theft of the century” [1 billion euros was siphoned out of the country from 2009-2014], a man who already confessed to being involved in illegal activities, is today spending public money in his capacity as mayor of the city of Orhei in the Republic of Moldova.
This week, a joint RISE-Moldova investigation unveiled Ilan Shor’s latest project, a plan to raze Union Hall in downtown Chisinau and build a large commercial center measuring more than 40 thousand square meters. According to investigating journalists, this plan is rapidly moving towards its final phase of implementation.
Nothing But Silence From Kroll
On October 5, 2015, just a few days before the Valeriu Strelet government was dismissed from power (thanks to votes from the Democratic, Socialist, and Communist party parliamentarians), the American company Kroll was hired to coordinate the second phase of the investigation into the “theft of the century” in the Republic of Moldova.
According to the contract signed by the National Bank of Moldova and Kroll, the second phase of the investigation was to last 16 weeks. The contract stipulated that Kroll was obligated to issue a report at the end of this period. Now, some 20 weeks later after the contract was signed, there hasn’t been a peep out of Kroll, only complete and utter silence.
Nobody knows any concrete details about this supposed international investigation.
Rewarded With the Governorship of the National Bank of Moldova?
On Monday, February 22, the application period ended for candidates seeking to become the new head [governor] of the National Bank of Moldova. So far, nine candidates have put their hats in the ring. Two of these men, Valeriu Chitan and Victor Timotin, previously appeared on the election lists of the Democratic Party (the party which currently controls all levers of power in Moldova) during the parliamentary elections held in November 2010.
Timotin, who appeared number 12 on the Democratic Party’s list, removed his name a month before the elections [of Nov 2010] and was replaced with the financier of the Democratic Party, the controversial businessman Vlad Plahotniuc. But neither Timotin or Chitan mention in their CVs that they have strong ties to the Democratic Party even though this information has been confirmed by the Central Electoral Commission.
Based on these “coincidences”, political analysts now believe that they can guess who will win the “contest” to become the next governor of the National Bank of Moldova.
The Tax Authority Given to one of Voronin’s Closest Advisors
On Monday, February 22, just a day before the IMF’s mission arrived in Chisinau, a new person was named as head of the State Inspectorate for Finances. The man newly installed in the post is Sergiu Puscuta, former financial advisor to the Communist ex-president Vladimir Voronin. Puscuta replaced Ion Prisacaru as head of the tax authority as Prisicaru got the position thanks to his ties with the Liberal Democratic Party, the party removed from power by the Democratic Party [with help from the Communists].
In a previous meeting with Pirkka Tapiola, the head of the European Union’s delegation to Chisinau, the interim president [leader of the Liberal Democratic Party] Valeriu Strelet told Tapiola that “practically speaking, a single party has seized all the levers of power in the government, a truly dangerous precedent!” Strelet further added that he told Tapiola that the current situation is one without precedent, as the ruling coalition in the parliament was built with blackmail and corruption.
To cover budgetary shortfalls, the government has announced that it will put 18 state-owned enterprises up for sale, some of which are large companies with annual profits in the range of hundreds of millions of lei, including “Tutun-CTC” [major tobacco producer and importer], the “Unic” department store, and “Barza Alba” [a major producer of cognac and brandy].
Some economic experts believe that the ruling oligarchs want to take advantage of the current government budgetary problems to buy these profitable companies for pennies on the dollar. Curiously, the official website of the Agency for Public Properties does not mention that any of these businesses are currently for sale.
Analysts believe that this is information is intentionally missing from the website so that experts from the IMF who are coming to Chisinau will not find out about the proposed sales.
Ahh, Moldova. Got to love it even though it’s absolutely horrifying to read. Just last week, the EU rapporteur who came to Moldova ended up shouting and screaming when he found out just how duplicitous the scumbags running Moldova are.
I honestly have to ask the IMF, World Bank, Romania, EU and United States (the sole backers of the current Pavel Filip regime), what else did you expect when the government was installed in a secret meeting at midnight? I mean the guy has been lying and bullshitting since his first day in office.
Revolution is coming to Moldova, I can feel it. And maybe this time it’ll be something real, not the bullshit Romanian protests that get people in the street for a day or two and then never really change anything.
It might get a little wild and crazy for a while but Moldova has one advantage over Romania – at least there won’t be billions of euros’ worth of “help” from the EU, IMF or WB to paper over the cracks and keep these mafia groups masquerading as political parties in power for much longer.