Books on Moldova
Leu (plural: Lei)
Update No: 293 - (27/05/05)
The Moldovans have the only communist party in power in Europe, which, moreover,
is popular, being re-elected in March. It is much less corrupt than its
predecessors and has been paying on time and, indeed, upping salaries and
The party lost its careerists in the early 1990s when it seemed to have little
future. The remaining members are genuine idealists by and large who convey the
impression that they really care about the welfare of the people, not just
themselves and their cronies.
Nevertheless, Moldova remains one of Europe's poorest nations, if not its
poorest, with unemployment running around 30%, in spite of annual gross domestic
product (GDP) growth rates in excess of 6%. Up to one third of the country's
working-age citizens are employed abroad, according to recent government
President Vladimir Voronin has promised Moldovans sweeping reforms that will
place the country on the path to European integration.
Tarlev lays out five-year reform plan for Moldova
Newly-appointed Moldovan Prime Minister, Vasyliy Tarlev, has outlined his
government's five-year plan recently for these reforms in the country.
The government has named five priority areas for reforms including modernisation
of the economy, reunification with the renegade province, Transnistria, improved
quality of life for Moldovans, rule of law and European integration. "The
programme takes into account the basic problems of the country and presents
concrete policies for their resolution," Tarlev said in a parliamentary
speech. The engine for change in the former Soviet republic would be the
country's growing commercial class, which according to the government plan would
work closely with the state to develop modern industries and create more jobs.
Tarlev named changes in banking and corporate laws in order to increase foreign
investment as another top task for the government. "Only in this way can we
modernise our labour market," Tarlev said. Tax reform also would come in
for early government attention, Tarlev said, with widespread cuts planned to be
pushed through parliament in coming weeks. Profit tax according to bills set to
be submitted to the legislature would fall from the present 18% to as low as 7%,
with small businesses receiving the biggest breaks, he said.
The Communist party of Moldova, which is committed to the reforms, controls a
stable majority in parliament. A medium-term goal for the tax reforms is
stimulation of domestic consumer goods and food production, in order to reduce
imports and created jobs, Tarlev said. "Healthy and vibrant Moldovan small
business is the only way to go forward," he said. Dramatic pension
increases are planned as well, with the average retiree set to receive triple
the present average pension, of around US$20 a month. A strong economy and
stable government receipts will pay for the increase without placing addition
burden on the national budget, Tarlev promised.
Education and health also will receive similar financing increased, he said.
The Transnistria connection
There is a new startling - and decidedly sinister - development coming to light
here. This is in the breakaway republic from Moldova, Transnistria, ruled by a
Stalinist tyrant with a lugubrious name, Igor Smirnov, and an even more
lugubrious regime. He achieved the unique feat four years ago of winning
elections in certain areas by 103%!
The republic makes a living out of smuggling, particularly out of the arms
trade. It is closely tied to Russia, which still has a big military base there;
indeed, it is Europe's largest arsenal of illegal arms. It is not clear whether
the Russian beneficiaries of the obvious corruption, that has for fourteen years
permitted this monstrous regime to sell arms from Russian military stockpiles,
include the Kremlin itself, or an out of control military establishment. Clearly
the pay-off must be substantial indeed. Apart from the biological and chemical
weaponry traded, there are scores of Alazan rockets. They are being held at a
former Soviet base, Kolbasna, which has 50,000 tons of weapons, including
artillery shells, mines and anti-aircraft missiles, making it the largest such
stockpile in Europe.
The Alazan is a slender rocket, 4ft 7in long, with a range of eight miles and a
'radioactive' warhead, deemed the ideal terrorist weapon by experts.
In 2003, according to a report in the London Sunday Times of May 8th, it emerged
that at least 38 Alazans were fitted with warheads containing up to 400g of
ceasium-137 and strontium-90. If they fell into terrorist hands. say
specialists, they could cause devastation for miles once detonated in a big city
centre. There would be contamination over a wide area, with a death toll in the
hundreds of thousands - a human-contrived tsunami.
The Sunday Times, in a brilliant exercise of investigative journalism, sent a
reporter posing as a middleman for an Islamicist terrorist organisation to see
if it was possible to procure an Alazan. It was, for $200,000, not such a vast
sum and well within the reach of al-Qaeda and the like. The intermediary on the
Transnistrian side was a certain 'Dimitri,' who spoke fluent English with an
American accent. The price was non-negotiable; but the other conditions of its
sale were eminently negotiable.
Moldovans and Georgians believe in EU destiny
The majority of citizens in Georgia and Moldova believe their countries should
join the EU, a new report released on 19th May by Gallup and the International
Republican Institute (IRI) said.
The survey said 77 per cent of Moldovans and 80 per cent of Georgians think
their countries' future lies in the 25-nation bloc.
Less than 50 per cent in both countries (33 per cent in Georgia and 40 per cent
in Moldova) think they should remain members of the Commonwealth of Independent
"People in these countries have always had a European identity, they feel
themselves Europeans," the coordinator of the study, Dr Rasa Alisauskiene,
told the EU observer.
However, most of them believe it is possible to keep good relations both with
Russia and the EU, and see Russia as a key partner, she specified. But if they
had to choose, "the EU is a clear preference," Dr Alisauskiene added.
People in Georgia are optimistic about the probability of EU membership for
their country, which may be explained by the political changes in Georgia,
according to the researcher.
On the other hand, Moldovans are rather pessimistic, due to the excessive
poverty of the country.
Both Georgia and Moldova "emotionally believe they can be members
soon," Dr Rasa Alisauskiene, who is also the director of Baltic surveys
within the Gallup organisation, pointed out. But they have too high expectations
concerning the EU, she indicated.
"They perceive the EU as some miracle, and want to join immediately. They
do not think about the economic aspects, for example. It reminds me of the
Baltic countries 15 years ago, just after they obtained independence,"
explained Dr Alisauskiene, a Lithuanian herself.
According to the researcher, more information should be provided to the citizens
of these countries, both from the EU and from their national governments, in
order to make their choice a "rational" decision.
"When people in the Baltics had to make up their minds (concerning EU
membership), it was the same situation. In the beginning, their choice was just
based on emotion. But the more the people became informed, the more reasonable
their choice was," the analyst said.
The study was carried out in Georgia, Moldova and Kazakstan via face-to-face
interviews between June and November 2004.
However, the third country, Kazakstan, points to neighbouring Russia and China
as its main partners.
The three countries have signed Partnership and Cooperation Agreements with the
EU, while Georgia and Moldova are also part of the EU's neighbourhood policy.
Moldova signed an action plan with the EU on 22 February, aimed at strengthening
its relations with the bloc.