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What does the Kremlin regime really want from the upcoming Moldovan elections?

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I was at an international event and was asked by a participant whether Putin still has influence in the Republic of Moldova. The lady was an elderly Russian who has lived in several countries in exile in the European Union and was forced to leave after a long fighting experience for the Russian (including electoral) rights in her native country.

I did not know what to answer at first, because I saw a myriad of ways in which the Kremlin (which is often something other than Russia) exercises its influence in the Republic of Moldova.

The Russian vice is weakening

Naturally, I started off with the army in the Transnistrian conflict, which Yeltsin’s Kremlin had promised to bring home in 1999, but which Putin’s Kremlin had forgotten there. The remnants of this 14th Army have always offered pseudo-authorities in the strip a feared whip for legitimate authorities in Chisinau (or whatever they may be), who have never hurried to solve the problem. And there are no changes, as the OSCE responds to the interests of the East, NATO does not get involved because the Moldovans are afraid of the alliance, and the 5 + 2 negotiation format is long overdue.

I kept going on talking about the economic and energy dependence on the Kremlin, which could shut down the gas tap at any time or reject exports coming from the Republic of Moldova. There is hope that we will finally be able to connect to the Iasi-Ungheni-Chisinau pipeline. While export leverage can be less and less used, as only 15.5% go to the CIS states compared with 70% of the EU, Russia has gone far beyond Romania (8% versus 29%). We do not need the same amount of investments from the Russians as in the old days, as their investments have reached the 6th place, being exceeded by 5 European states. Workplaces and remittances of Moldovans working in Russia are another chapter in which the Kremlin is losing ground year after year, the first being reoriented to the EU after the Russians’ harassment, but also after the overall decline in Russian living standards. In 2018, money sent home by Moldovans in the EU accounted for 40% of the total, while those in Russia only 28%.

Tanks, propaganda and corrupt politicians

All data from above should make us more optimistic if we live in a democracy where things are in tune with the general interest of the population. But Moldova is not a democracy anymore, and the Moldovan population is not (only) formed of independent and well-informed citizens. The (geo) political orientation of our fellow citizens makes us remain pessimistic. Although the natural aspirations for a better life of Moldovans translate into the weakening of the Russian vignette, the Kremlin remaining only with their traditional tank and the new gas tap, too many of us continue to look at the Moldova Socialist Party/Democratic Party supporters, the subordinates from Chisinau of the Kremlin, with hope and confidence, as if they knew to do nothing but steal and lie in an organized way. In addition, the perception of the Moldovans is that Russia remains our most important economic partner, as it was before the Association Agreement, embargo, and other events that radically changed our dependence in recent years.

Part of the explanation of this attitude has its place in propaganda and in the fake news in the laboratories of Russian manufacturers of information garbage. Being Russian-speaking and having a Soviet past (and present), many Moldovans fall victim to these messages harmful to democracy, cohesion and the well-being of modern society. Moreover, the Kremlin knows this and speculates this vulnerability to the fullest, working hard to plant hatred and mistrust in everything that does not fit in the old Soviet templates, including their partners in Chisinau, people close to the President Dodon’s Moldovan Socialist Party, who control TV/Radio channels such as RTR, NTV, CTC, Accent TV, THT Bravo, Ren-TV and many others. Although only two of these are in the top 6 at the audience, the other ones are very influential among the population looking for entertainment and simple explanations for complicated issues.

These TV channels, duplicated by the Sputnik.md, vedomosti.md or kp.md sites, present the so-called socialists as partners of the Kremlin lords, while they are only fewer children their achievements, which mimic authority, power, and control in a mournful manifestation of people truly incapable of something better. We are talking about a female party leader who has enriched her relatives and colleagues from the money saved by citizens (Zinaida Greceanii); about a candidate who was enriched “only by the district counselor salary” in the Kroll report (Piotr Puscari); about another one who is beating his fellow citizens because he can not be taken into account altogether; or one who swears that he lives only from the financial gifts he received during his birthday (Veaceslav Lupov). Thus, he’s also an important actor in the Kroll report (this time, only a Shor Party member).

The threat of installing anti-European authoritarianism is real

In November, one of the recent credible polls showed us that in any configuration, the Chişinău Parliament will be a pro-Kremlin, anti-European and an anti-Moldovan one (which might turn into a large Transnistria). From the President Dodon’s Socialist Party to the Democratic Party of Moldova, the Moldovan Communist Party – parties with a high chance of forming a post-election coalition – all proved to be adepts of authoritarianism, doubling with a sort of local Soviet patriotism. Only oligarch Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) has been self-titled, since leading a discretionary republic, as a so-called “pro-European” party, and in the summer became a “pro-Moldova”. At that time, the relationship of subordination between Plahotniuc and Dodon began to grow more and more. It became clear that the President of the Republic of Moldova is in the ingrained situation of being pulled by two rails: one from the Armeneasca 44 street in Chisinau and another from the Piata Rosie 1 street.

The threat of the establishment of a Trans-Partisan group of greedy admirers of Putin is real. And if it succeeds, nothing will stop further deepening the crisis in which the Republic of Moldova lies, plundering the resources of the state, destroying families and ruining the lives of those whom they will banish, as did the Putin regime that chased the lady I answered the question to.

Therefore, our participation in the February 24th elections is vital for the Moldovan society, for the relatives, friends and people we hold.

Opinion by Tudor Cojocariu

Translated by Arina Livadari

Economy

Global Talent Competitiveness Index: Moldova when it comes to Artificial Intelligence

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The 7th edition of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) addressed the topic Global Talent in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. The index is used to rank 132 national economies, across all groups of income and levels of development, that representing 97% of the world’s GDP and 94% of its population. The report referred, first of all, to the level of innovation and technology development, exploring how the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not only changing the nature of work but also forcing a re-evaluation of workplace practices, corporate structures and innovation ecosystems.

This year, Moldova ranked 86th out of 132 analysed economies, being ranked behind the neighbouring countries such as Ukraine and Romania, which ranked 66th and 64th, respectively.

The countries that are best positioned to benefit from the AI revolution are also the most developed countries in the world, especially when it comes to the competitiveness and potential of attracting and training best professionals. Top ten countries in the ranking are Switzerland, the United States of America, Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway and Australia.

New York, London, Singapore, San Francisco, Boston, Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Munich are among the most developed cities in this regard.

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source: insead.edu

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source: insead.edu

GTCI highlights

One of the most important observations made in the GTCI report for 2020 is that the gap between talent champions (almost all of them high-income countries) and the rest of the world is widening. Still, AI may provide significant opportunities for emerging countries to leapfrog.

The top of the GTCI rankings is still dominated by Europe, including the Nordic countries – a significant number of small high-income economies, many of them being either landlocked, island or quasi-island economies, including Switzerland (1st), Singapore (3rd), Luxembourg (8th), Iceland (14th) or Austria (17th).

According to the report, the key factor is developing relatively open socio-economic policies in which talent growth and management are central priorities in the age of AI.

Moldova

Moldova managed to get a score of 36.64, being ranked 86th out of 132 countries. It was classified as lower-middle income country and ranked 7th out of 32 countries included in this category. The country’s talent competitiveness index weakened as compared to the period between 2015-2017, when it was listed around the 61st position.

Moldova was evaluated with the highest scores for such aspects as gender development gap, ease of doing business, number of female graduates, competition intensity and political stability, while the lowest scores were given for its share of R&D expenditure, robot density, university ranking, number of registered researchers, scientific journal articles, labour productivity per employee, new business density and collaboration across organisations.

This year’s model of the GTCI index includes a total of 70 variables, up from 68 indicators used in the GTCI 2019.

source: insead.edu

Photo: cambridgealert.com

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Society

How corrupt Moldovan citizens are? Comparative figures

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When talking about corruption, most of Moldovan citizens blame the ‘system’ built by politicians and their political regimes throughout history. And that may be true, but only to some degree. When looking deeper, it can be actually observed that little corruption acts are perceived as a normality by a lot of individuals and legal entities in the country. That is what is shown in a recent study conducted by by the Center for Social Studies and Marketing “CBS – Research”. The study assessed the impact of the National Integrity and Anticorruption Strategy for the years 2017-2020.

 516 million lei – this is the total amount of bribes offered by Moldovans in 2019. On average, a Moldovan citizen has offered at least five bribes, while an enterprise has been involved in about three corruption acts. Businesses paid bribes worth 197,3 million lei, while individuals offered a total of 319,4 million lei as bribes during the last year, estimated the study. The value of the one illegal payment ranged from 50 to 20 thousand lei.

The research was carried out on the basis of a national survey where 1 120 persons, 506 companies and 606 civil servants from central, district and local public administration participated. The data were presented in comparison to the situation in 2017, when the first such survey was conducted. It was carried out within the project “Fight against corruption by strengthening integrity in the Republic of Moldova”, implemented by UNDP in collaboration with the National Anticorruption Center, and the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The total value of the bribes offered by Moldovans is lower, however, compared to those from two years ago, when the amounts varied between 100 and 500 thousand lei in the case of companies and between 50 lei and 8 thousand lei in the case of individuals, as the study stated.

Even though the study affirmed that corruption remains a serious problem for the Moldovan society, the level of intolerance of the population towards corruption has increased. Thus, about 62% of individuals (compared to 45% in 2017) and 83% of businesses (compared to 61% in 2017) consider any corruption situations unacceptable and declare that they do not accept to offer or receive bribes, regardless of the situation and implied personal benefit.

Moreover, both individuals (73% of respondents) and companies (80% of them) are aware that bribery entails punishment of both parties involved, and 87% of them, on average, would report the corruption acts to the anti-corruption agencies in the event of such a situation.

In the opinion of the civil servants participating in the survey, among the main causes of corruption are the low salaries in the public sector and the mentality of demanding and giving bribes in money and /or goods.

The same causes for corruption acts were emphasised by a survey conducted by Transparency International (TI) Moldova throughout the employees of 13 central public authorities. The survey results revealed that a quarter (24.6%) of civil servants who work in public institutions, and answered the survey, consider that their workplace is affected by corruption. More details about the survey can be found here.

Although the legislation obliges civil servants to report corruption cases and other abuses to the head of the public entity or to the responsible authority, a considerable part of the respondents (about 27%) are openly not willing to do it for reasons of personal security and lack of trust in empowered bodies, according to the TI-Moldova report.

Thus, the main factors that could determine the involvement of citizens in corruption abatement activities are the confidence that they will be protected if they denounce a public official for corruption acts, as well as the trust in the independence of the justice, showed the Center for Social Studies and Marketing study, as being reported by TV8.

“Committing acts of corruption must become non-profitable. But to drive forward those reforms, independent, effective, and incorruptible leaders of the judiciary and law enforcement bodies are urgently needed,” said Stanislav Pavlovschi, a Moldovan judge formerly at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), for the Global Voices portal.

In 2019, Moldova registered a score of 32 points for the Corruption Perception Index for 2019 released by Transparency International, being ranked 120th out of 180 countries. The score for Moldova worsened as compared to the 2018 year, when the country recorded 33 points, whereas improved when confronted to the data from 2017 – 31 points. More details here.

Photo: freepik.com

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Society

Amnesty International: the Government of Moldova needs to ensure hygiene conditions in schools. Statistics

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“A clean and safe toilet in schools is a right, not a privilege.” – this is said in the statement of Amnesty International that urged the Government of Moldova to ensure decent hygiene conditions in the schools of the Republic of Moldova.

The statement of Amnesty International said that, according to the official data provided by the National Agency for Public Health and the Children’s Platform that conducted the research, about half of the schools in the Republic of Moldova do not have toilets inside the school building, which is connected to a public sewerage system, or if they exist, the toilets are not used.

“The schools usually have only toilets, located far from the school building, which are in poor condition, without cabins or separators for privacy, no electricity or heating, no hand-washing facilities, and which are rarely cleaned. Thus, almost half of the pupils from the Republic of Moldova use old outside toilets, located in the school yard, no matter it is hot or cold outside. Children do not have facilities that meet basic standards regarding water, sanitation and hygiene practices,” claimed Amnesty International.

According to the Children’s Platform survey results, in which 175 children from different schools from all over the country participated, 57% of them said that the toilets are located outside the school building, and 75% of the respondents mentioned that there is never toilet paper in the toilets. Toilet paper was never included in the list of hygiene products in schools, and the norms have not been changed since 1986, a fact confirmed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research.

Even though 90% of them said there are hand-washing facilities in schools, 70% said that soap is rarely there or there is no soap at all.

70% of pupils said that their teachers use a different toilet. The conditions in the teachers’ restrooms are much better than those for pupils. There are even cases where the teachers’ restrooms are located inside the school building, and the pupils’ restrooms are outside.

The privacy of the children is not assured as well. Even though 77% of the students mentioned that there are walls in the school toilets, only 43% of the children said that these cabins have doors.

source: mamaplus.md

Some survey participants mentioned that the school’s indoor toilets, if they exist, are open only when controls in the institution take place.

These practices seriously contradict the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum standards on water, sanitation and hygiene in educational institutions, that meaning a sufficient number of separate, well-maintained restrooms for girls, boys, women and men, integrated in the school building, accessible to children with special needs, and having hand-washing facilities, as Amnesty International stated.

On this occasion, it’s worth mentioning that seven out of ten households in the Republic of Moldova do not have a toilet in the house. On average, 21 out of 30 people go to the outside toilet located in the yard, stated a report published by Moldova.org.

Taking into consideration that the majority of the Moldovan localities are remote from big cities, they also can’t be connected to their centralised sewage system. Only 126 out of 1682 localities have sewerage systems and only 73 of them have functional sewage treatment plants. Without a sewage treatment plant, wastewater reaches the soil and rivers, causing serious pollution.

Experts say that there a 2 more solutions: decentralised sewage systems with attached treatment plants for a locality or a group of localities (such projects have a cost of more than 1,5 million euros) or home treatment plants attached to the individual sewage system (that can cost about 4 thousand euros). For 60.6% of the population with low and very low income, several thousand euros represent a lot of money.

More details can be found in the Moldova.org article.

Photo: Nadea Roșcovanu| Jurnal de Chisinau

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