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moldova

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  MOLDOVA

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
33,843

Population
4,431,570

Principal
ethnic groups

Moldovans 64.5%
Ukrainians 13.8%
Russians 13.0%

Capital
Kishinev
(Chisinau)

Currency
Leu (plural: Lei)

President
Vladimir Voronin

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Background:
Formerly ruled by Romania, Moldova became part of the Soviet Union at the close of World War II. Although independent from the USSR since 1991, Russian forces have remained on Moldovan territory east of the Nistru (Dnister) River supporting the Slavic majority population, mostly Ukrainians and Russians, who have proclaimed a "Transnistria" republic. One of the poorest nations in Europe and plagued by a moribund economy, in 2001 Moldova became the first former Soviet state to elect a communist as its president.

Update No: 257 - (30/05/02)

Opposition demonstrations
The Moldovan republic was convulsed by a major political crisis earlier this year when the main opposition party, the Christian Democratic People's Party (PPCD), organised the Great National Assembly on March 31st in the course of a 101-day protest demonstration right between the parliament and the presidential palace. They protested against the policies of the one-year old communist government, some of which were consequently reversed (the compulsory learning of Russian in schools, for example).
Some 50,000 people took part in the Great National Assembly, while 100,000 or more were prepared to participate in the protracted demonstration at one time or another. The assembly harks back to earlier times when Moldova was largely Bessarabia, a province of Romania. So also does the Metropolitan See of Bessarabia, whose clerics support and sanctify the opposition moves.
The government branded the PPCD activists as fascists and ultra-nationalists, wanting to restore Moldova to Romania; but they did not attempt to break up the extended demonstration by force. They probably reckoned that they had little to fear if they allowed it to run its course.

Communism still popular
The Romanians are not keen to take on the basket-case of the Moldovan economy, having enough problems of their own. The general population seems far from disenchanted with the communists, although that time may yet come. Were parliamentary elections held now, the communists would win by a far wider margin than in February 2001, when they had just a bit more than 50%, a very good performance at the time. By November opinion polls, conducted by the IMAS Marketing and Polls Institute, were putting them on 68% and by March this year on 73%.
Among politicians in Moldova, President Vladimir Voronin is easily ahead of the pack on 45%. This compares with three per cent for the former premier and current leader of the Social-Democratic Alliance, Dmitry Bragis and two per cent each for leader of the opposition PPCD Yurie Roska and Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urecheanu. Around 22% of Moldovans do not trust any politician.
Moldovans are dissatisfied with their living standards, 81% of them, and over half want to emigrate, hardly surprising in a country whose economy has plunged to a third of its level in 1991, the year of independence. Admittedly one third of the economy was in Trans-Dnestr, the largely Russian and Ukrainian breakaway enclave on the left bank of the River Dnestr. Its secession accounts for one half, therefore, of the total two-thirds decline. But things are very grim indeed, and the communist government will not always be able to trade on nostalgia.

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AGRICULTURE

Moldovan parliament amends Land Code encouraging return to collective farming

The Moldovan parliament on 25th April amended the Land Code adding what the Communist majority described as "measures to boost output from private fields," Basapress News Agency has reported.
The amendments were approved by the Communists and the [centrist] Braghis Alliance faction. The Christian Democratic Popular Party (PPCD), who voted against, said they would seek to have the amendments outlawed in the Constitutional Court.
The law was amended at the suggetion of the State Agency for Land Relations and Survey.
Under the new provisions, farmers who own small fields are encouraged to unite and share the land, with the local authorities allowed to take part in the sale, purchase and exchange of land plots.
The Moldovan Federation of Farmers, FNF, expressed opposition to the attempts by the ruling Communist Party to revise the Land Code by encouraging farmers to form cooperatives by administrative means.
Federation leaders told a round-table meeting that the project developed by the National Agency for Land Relations and Survey looks like a mechanism of collectivization. If a farm created under the new provisions goes bankrupt or collapses under heavy debts, the state will take possession of its land and members of the farm will lose their fields, they said. In addition, those who create a new [collective] farm will lose the rights to their private plots.
"The collectivization in the Soviet Union was called 'voluntary', too," a farmers' union member said.
FNF Chairman Vasile Marzencu said the provision according to which the state issues a single certificate of land ownership [to a collectivised farm] effectively abolishes the rights of private farmers.

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FINANCIAL NEWS

World Bank official notes positive change in Moldova's economic policy

Pieter Stek, managing director of the World Bank, has said at the end of his visit to Chisinau that Moldova might receive the first tranche of the third structural adjustment credit SAC-III before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) resumes the financing for the country, Basapress News Agency has reported.
"Moldova is on the right way. The government is turning to a rather consistent policy," he said. "This is not an ordinary situation, but it is acceptable."
The World Bank will release the first US$10m from the US$30m SAC-III after it obtains a letter of acceptance from the IMF, Stek said. This way, if the bank's board of directors meets on 18th June, the money will be made available a week after that meeting.
Stek also stated that he had cancelled a visit to Moldova two months ago because "things were not moving the right direction." In recent weeks, Moldova recorded progress in talks on SAC-III and in relations with the fund, he added.
The Moldovan parliament has recently passed a number of laws upon which Chisinau liaised with the World Bank. Stek expressed his optimism that entire legislation would be adjusted to meet the conditions of the IMF, so that the World Bank might make the first step to resume the financing for Moldova.
"I have confidence in the serious intentions of the government," Stek said.

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FOREIGN LOANS & AID

Moldova premier says US to continue humanitarian aid

Premier Vasile Tarlev announced at a press conference that the United States would continue humanitarian programmes in Moldova. He said US Secretary of State Colin Powell had promised continuity at a meeting in Washington DC, Basapress News Agency has reported.
At the same time, the prime minister mentioned that Powell supported an initiative by the Moldovan authorities to establish a state agency for the monitoring of aid. "The United States is also interested in seeing the humanitarian assistance arriving at its destination," Tarlev said. Earlier, Steven Pifer, deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Asia, while visiting Moldova on 26th February, recommended that Chisinau drop plans to monopolize control on humanitarian assistance. Pifer warned that the US might in this case halt aid programmes to the former Soviet republic.
According to the American official, US donors would not ship assistance through state agencies, as they prefer non-commercial and non-state organisations. According to official data, the US offers 61 per cent of humanitarian assistance received by Moldova.

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SHIPPING

Russia interested in building river port in Moldova 

At least three companies based in Moscow are interested in taking part in the building of a port in Giurgiulesti, southern Moldova [where the Prut river flows into the Danube], Transport and Communications Minister Anatol Cuptov said without naming these companies, Basapress News Agency has reported.
Cuptov paid a visit to Moscow where he negotiated with Russian officials the possible participation of the Moscow government in the building of the Giurgiulesti port where a previous project to build an oil terminal failed.
Moscow authorities promised to work out a project and to find an investor, the minister said. The total cost of the project is estimated at US$14.6m. According to the minister, these expenses could be recouped within 10 years.
Anatol Cuptov stated that building work could begin early 2003 and the port will be put into operation 18 months later.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Moldova liberalises telecom market

More companies will be allowed to work on the Moldovan telecommunication market, not only the state-owned monopoly, Moldtelecom, Moldovan private ProTV has reported. The parliament on 8th May passed a law on the partial demonopolisation of this market starting from 2004. Thus, economic agents will be allowed to create their own fixed-line telephone networks in all the localities except Chisinau and the county centres.
Currently, Moldtelecom is the only fixed-line telephone operator. In other words, this state company is the only one allowed to build telephone networks and to provide fixed-line telephone services to people and economic agents, the TV correspondent stated.
Nicolae Bondarciuc, the chairman of the parliamentary commission for economics and finance, said: "The essence of the amendment consists in the establishment of some legal frameworks aimed at the complete liberalization of the telecommunication market. Fixed-line telephone services at the local level will be provided by operators in all the regions of the country. Only the Chisinau municipality and the country centres will be an exception. Moldtelecom will operate there.
Anatol Cuptov, the minister of telecommunications added: "Telecommunication services should develop in villages, too, not only in Chisinau, Balti, Comrat or Soroca. We must reach the remotest villages. We believe that this amendment will boost investment in private networks in the countryside."
After the amendment is published in Monitorul Official [newspaper], economic agents could apply to the National Agency for Regulations in Telecommunications for licences to create their own telephone networks. These are to be connected to Moldtelecom's networks.
People will be able again to enjoy cheap telephone conversations through Internet providers.
A government initiative that cancels Moldtelecom's monopoly on providing these services passed its first reading in the parliament today. Telephone conversations through the Internet, or IP telephony, started to be practised more than three years ago. Those who wanted to call abroad bought a special card from Internet providers that allowed them to halve their phone bills after dialling a special code. This inflicted huge damage on Moldtelecom, which later monopolised this market. Talks on the cancellation of this monopoly started at the World Bank's request. The government committed itself to cancelling the monopoly in exchange for the resumption of international financial assistance.

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