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Economy

The 3rd EU assistance package for Moldova approved – the amount and programmes to which the budget support is directed

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On October 31st, the European Commission has approved a new disbursement of about €25 million, that representing assistance to the budget of the Republic of Moldova in order to support the Moldovan government in delivering key reforms in the areas of policing, fight against corruption and money laundering, agriculture, as well as rural development, according to a press release of the European Commission.

“Today’s assistance package – the fourth since July – demonstrates the EU’s strong and continued commitment to the reform path of Moldova. It should be seen as recognition of the sustained efforts made by the Moldovan government to address problems within vital areas such as justice and the rule of law for the benefit of the Moldovan people. The EU stands ready to further assist this important process conditional to tangible results, especially on the much-awaited justice reform,” Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, declared.

The previous payments were made as following:

The amount of €24.85 million corresponds to budget support disbursements under two programmes:

  • Support to Police reform: particularly, for modernisation of police structures, women participation in the police force, pilot community policing projects, strengthening the rapid-reaction capacities of its intervention teams to emergency calls and reducing the intervention time, building new anti-corruption units within the police to actively promote and implement the principles of zero tolerance to corruption;
  •  ENPARD Moldova – Support to Agriculture and Rural Development: namely, for enhancing the competitiveness of Moldovan agri-food sector by supporting farm investment, creation of producer groups and helping agri-food establishments trade with the EU, helping agricultural producers to comply with international and EU quality standards on food safety and supporting rural development initiatives, initiated at the local level.

According to the platform of EU-funded technical assistance projects in the Republic of Moldova, eu4moldova.md, our country is the largest beneficiary of EU aid per capita in the European neighbourhood, which means that the European Union invested 619 851 649 in the Republic of Moldova until this moment.

The experts believe that in the absence of DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area), the Moldova’s state budget would have lost over 7 billion lei in revenues, and the private sector would have lost at least 320 million euros in investments in fixed capital, according to a  report issued by the Expert-Group representatives and the Institute for European Policies and Reforms.

Still, the potential offered by the EU-Moldova Association Agreement has not yet been fully reached, as a lot is still to be done, especially when it comes to functioning of democratic institutions and strengthening the rule of law and the independence of justice.

“The prevention and combating of high-level corruption has been mainly characterised by selective justice practices or by lack of finality, despite the consolidation of the normative and institutional framework by creating the Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office and by reforming the integrity system. Efforts aimed at police reform were recorded, being also supported by our development partners. However, the depoliticization of law institutions remains an arrearage. Corruption is still perceived as the main problem of the society. […] All of these have affected the EU-Moldova dialogue, including the use of the full support from the European Union,” the Expert-Group report showed.

Photo: ec.europa.eu

Important

The desperate call of Moldovan doctors and the reasons why medical system can’t resist too long

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The first medical employee from the Republic of Moldova, Ecaterina Litvinschi – a 79-year-old woman who died because of coronavirus – was buried these days. The woman worked as a medical emergency doctor at at a National Center for Emergency Medicine for about 35 years. According to her relatives’ declarations, she was buried on the edge of a Chisinau cemetery, in a special area where those contaminated with coronavirus were expected to be buried:

sector 277, tomb no. 1

“Historically, those who end their days by suicide were buried on the far side or outside the cemetery. Is that an “honour” attached to a hero doctor?” wondered a relative of the deceased doctor.

Also, the relatives of the medical emergency doctor mentioned that the hospital administration, where the victim was previously hospitalised, insisted to not disclose the fact that Ecaterina was infected being on call to an already infected person, without special equipment and without being warned by the emergency service 112.

Not enough protective measures for medical staff

Out of the currently confirmed 298 cases of infections with COVID-19, 60 are medical workers, according to the information provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection. Moreover, until two days ago, authorities refused to present information on cases of COVID-19 infection among medical workers, giving assurances that doctors have protective equipment and urging journalists not to seek sensations.

The National Ombudsman Mihail Cotorobai made a request addressed to Prime Minister Ion Chicu, in which he informed about the intention of a high number of doctors to submit letter of resignation due to the lack of the protective equipment, which would provide safe working conditions to the medical personnel.

Mihail Cotorobai asked to urgently identify additional funds to ensure protective measures against COVID-19 contagion, both at the level of hospital medical institutions and at the level of primary health care centres. “The recommended measures are imperative both to ensure the patients’ right to high-quality medical services, as well as to ensure safety of the employees of the health system who are put at major risk of contagion due to non-working conditions,” the Ombudsman said.

Currently, six medical institutions in the country are being involved in the treatment of coronavirus patients. Next week other district and municipal medical institutions will be delegated to hospitalise infected patients. The authorities announced that a triage centre is prepared to be organised at the Moldexpo Exhibition Center. By Wednesday, it will be fully equipped, including with 700 beds.

“The number of confirmed cases is increasing, we reiterate the call to citizens to be very cautious. We are sure that if we follow the rules, we will not allow a jump in coronavirus cases and we will have the capacity to handle the situation. This gloomy scenario can be avoided if we are supportive. It is clear that we will overcome this situation, and the authorities and citizens will make the necessary efforts,” stated the prime minister during a press conference.

The announcement of the prime minister sounded optimistic. More and more desperate calls appear online though, being posted by journalists, politicians, artists, regarding the precarious situation in the medical institutions of the Republic of Moldova. Most of them are made anonymously, as medical workers fear to lose their jobs.

The member of the Parliament Radu Marian posted on social media, on March 28, a message sent to him by a person whose mother works as a nurse at the municipal hospital in Balti (one of the hospitals involved in the treatment of coronavirus patients).

“My mother is scared to go to work. She receives one mask for 24 hours and 2 pairs of gloves without other equipment. They write something else on the paper. It’s like fighting on a battlefield without any weapons. […] I wrote to you as a child who is afraid of losing his mother because of the incompetence of the authorities and because of the situation in the hospitals of Moldova,” is said in the message.

According to the data presented by the authorities, during this weekend, there were reported the most cases of infection per day since the beginning of the epidemic in Moldova.

Not enough resources

Doctor in medical sciences, specialist in Intensive Care, Tihon Moraru called on the authorities to take urgent measures on acquiring the necessary equipment for managing the patients in need for intensive care. He mentioned that in order to be able to provide the necessary treatment to 50-100 critical patients, there is a need of at least 30 to 40 high performance mechanical ventilators, produced in the USA, Germany or Japan.

“I am afraid that we are late by 3-4 weeks, it will be very difficult for the equipment to be brought to the country. This can only be achieved by the authorities of our country and as quickly as possible. […] I believe that the maximum number of hospitalisations for the serious and critical patients will be between the middle of April and the beginning of May, which is why this devices of vital necessity must be brought to the country as urgently as possible. […] They are very necessary for the intensive care units of the country, especially those of the district hospitals of the country, where these devices are outdated,” specified Tihon Moraru.

The Moldovan authorities announced that 200 thousand protective screens and 500 filter masks were purchased in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the purchased protective screens represent only 10% of the announced necessary quantity, while the acquired amount of filter masks cover 25% of the health system current needs, reported ZdG.

Being contacted by ZdG, the manager of the company responsible for acquiring the protective goods said that, at the moment, the company does not have the products in stock, while importing them from China is a complicated procedure that will surely result in delivery delays, given the pandemic conditions.

Not enough tested persons

Another 32 people were lastly confirmed as being infected with the new type of coronavirus, after 246 samples were processed in the laboratory of the National Agency for Public Health, announced the sanatateinfo.md portal. That amounts a total of 5 324 persons who were tested, including family doctors and mayors. Given the exponential growth rate of the contagion demonstrated in other countries, the number of tested persons in the Republic of Moldova can be concluded as being way too low.

Enough Government assurances that “all is kept under control”

For purchasing 200 000 protective screens and 500 000 filter masks, the Government of the Republic of Moldova approved the allocation of 36 million lei from the reserve fund. “It is a measure to ensure protective equipment for the next period. We have enough equipment, but we are preparing for the second half of April and May,” said Prime Minister Ion Chicu.

At the same time, some district hospitals already have taken decisions of replacing at least a part of their old equipment using their institution budget or by applying to international funds and calling for foreign governments’ donations of protective goods, disinfectants, tests, etc.

Photo: Facebook| Ala Nemerenco

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Media censorship during state of emergency: no personal opinions, no information that is not confirmed by state officials

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In the context of state of emergency declared on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, the president of the Audiovisual Council (AC) of the Republic of Moldova, Dragoș Vicol, issued, on March 24, a provision through which, media outlets from all over the country are obliged to present only the official position of the competent public authorities. Additionally, journalists are not allowed to express their own opinion when reflecting the subjects that concern the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Under the conditions of state of emergency on the territory of Moldova, the official position of the competent public authorities (World Health Organization, the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission, the Government of the Republic of Moldova, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection) will be presented, those being more knowledgeable and more competent institutions regarding this matter,” is mentioned in the provision published on the AC official page.

In its attempt to fight fake news, sensationalism and infodemic situations characterised by overabundance of information that can create confusion, panic and insecurity, the AC risks to violate freedom of speech, opinated Petru Macovei, the executive director of the Independent Press Association (IPA) cited by ZdG.

These provisions are qualified by Macovei as an abuse in the field of audiovisual media services. “These provisions limit the right of journalists to issue value judgements related to the authorities’ efficiency,” stated Petru Macovei.

This is what the AC provides exactly: “During the period of emergency, the presenters / moderators / editors will unilaterally renounce the unannounced statement and favouring of both their own opinion and free formation of arbitrary opinions when reflecting the topics concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.”

At the same time, the regulatory institution affirmed that “the only reliable, truthful, impartial and balanced source of information is that from competent public authorities in the country and abroad.”

During the broadcasts made on the subject COVID-19, the representatives of the authorities should be invited, or at least they should be able to talk over the phone, as well as to present video or audio recordings with the position of a public authority, stated the president of AC for TV8.

In his opinion, everybody should trust the official sources. “Why do you doubt it? Now it is not the proper moment for labelling and considering that someone is hiding the information. I cannot believe that there are tendencies for certain state authorities to hide information,” Dragoș Vicol claimed.

However, experts say it is more about forbidding inconvenient statements and controlling the information flow.

“This decision needs to be reconsidered by the AC because, in its current form, it contains very clear elements of censorship. […] It is important to warn the European Commission about the abuses that occur in the Republic of Moldova under the pretext of state of emergency,” Petru Macovei highlighted.

“Such decisions are counter-productive when referring to the transparency of the authorities and the communication to the public to prevent the spread of the virus and recover the social-economic situation,” mentioned political analyst Dionis Cenușă, arguing that the AC provision still covers important issues related to a correct way of communicating information and dealing with the phenomenon of fake news.

Photo: Wendy Kenigsberg |University Photography

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In the coronavirus economic crisis: attempts to help the most affected sectors

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The National Extraordinary Public Health Commission issued recently a decision, according to which the activity of shops, restaurants, fitness centres, concert halls, theatres, cinemas, museums must be stopped by April 1. The adopted measure is related to the state of emergency declared by the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova throughout the territory of the country until May 15.

As a consequence, business associations from Moldova called for adoption of supporting measures to help companies mitigate the negative effects of the coronavirus outbreak. An online petition addressed to the Government of the Republic of Moldova was signed by thousands of citizens.

“The most powerful hit will be recorded in the case of small and medium-sized enterprises. Considering their vulnerability, the impact can be irrecoverable. Many of them will suffer major losses, some will partially or completely cease their activity, others may go bankrupt. Such areas as services, leisure, tourism, hotel, restaurants, catering, retail, event organisers and many others will be affected by quarantine and preventive measures,” the petition stated.

Government’s list of actions

On March 19, Prime Minister Ion Chicu announced a list of measures that will be taken to help business entities from Moldova during the pandemic situation. Among them are such measures as:

  • postponing income tax payments;
  • reducing VAT taxes for restaurant, hotels and catering companies;
  • introducing a moratorium for tax controls;
  • cancelling the compulsory audit of the individual financial statements for the year 2019;
  • offering the possibility of commercial banks to reschedule mortgages for individuals and provide loans under more favourable conditions;
  • increasing the Government Intervention Fund by 150 million lei, for offering bank lending guarantees to strategic economic entities, etc.

“The extraordinary situation requires extraordinary measures. The crisis will generate losses, but together we will identify solutions to reduce losses. […] At the moment, the budget incomes are at a normal level, being 14% higher than compared to the similar period of last year. We need to identify adequate policies and measures to minimise the effects of this crisis,” said Ion Chicu during the meeting with business associations, as a Government statement reported.

Source: gov.md

The National Bank of Moldova (NBM) announced that the institution will continue to use all available tools to meet the objectives of price stability and consolidation of the banking sector, which, at the moment, is declared as being well capitalised and resilient.

However, economic experts say that the pandemic could affect the labor market and that the authorities have little room to financially help the business environment, as it is the case in European countries, but it could resort to external loans.

Companies’ mitigation measures

Andrei Crigan who is an economist and business consultant, said that especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are subject to lower incomes under the pandemic conditions, due to the pressure exercised by fixed costs such as rent, utilities and salaries.

According to the economist, companies must make crisis plans, analysing cost cutting, contract re-negotiations and losses minimisation opportunities. “In this period, the most important thing is the association with other entrepreneurs in order to exchange experience, observation of what others are doing to protect themselves, merging efforts and distributing the expenses together,” explained the specialist.

Also, Crigan stated that it is premature to talk about how much money the state will need in order to support the business environment.

In this regard, companies are advised to take more and more into account digital marketing activities in order to survive in such hard conditions. Offer home delivery possibilities, invest in digital promotion through social media and in situational marketing through corporate social responsibility are just some of them. Additionally, companies shall try to switch to online payment methods and active use of contactless bank cards, so as to reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission.

Specific industries’ problems

Not all companies can switch to online environment though. Economic expert at Expert-Grup, Iurie Morcotîlo, said that companies oriented to the internal market, such as hotels, restaurants, shops, will be affected in the short term, because the main revenues come from direct contact with people.

In the long run, exports-oriented enterprises will be affected, because consumer demand among importing countries will decrease. “We must acknowledge that public finances this year will be suffering significantly, as the volume of tax collections will be lower than anticipated at the beginning of the year. The state budget will have to be revised and many initially planned expenditures will not be disbursed,” the expert claimed.

According to the economic expert, there is a reserve fund for exceptional situations, but not for business support, while the Government could resort to external credits or increasing the domestic debt, if the volume of expenses will grow.

Not all companies took the necessary preventive measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Activists are alarmed that work on some construction sites wasn’t stopped, as well as in many factories and service providing companies, whereas protecting equipment wasn’t distributed to employees.

More than 24 thousand people have signed an online petition signalling the increase in food prices and asking the authorities to take measures to protect the citizens. Meanwhile, on social networks people claim that they have observed an increase in prices for vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meat, hygiene products and disinfectants.

On the other hand, some Moldovan companies continue to help those who fight coronavirus nowadays. Businesses donate money to hospitals in the country, support educational project of developing online learning platforms, provide e-books for free, offer free psychological consultations for doctors, cosmetic producers focus all their resources to producing disinfectants.

Despite the losses they face during this period, several restaurants and food producing companies offer free food to doctors, taxi drivers bring doctors to work for free, young musicians organise live concerts online and groups of volunteers are organised to take care of their elderly neighbours by going to stores or pharmacies instead of them. Everyone who can afford it is advised to stay home.

See also: When facing hard times: Moldovans’ acts of kindness during the coronavirus outbreak

Photo: Adeolu Eletu |Unsplash

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