Books on Moldova
Leu (plural: Lei)
Update No: 296 - (26/08/05)
The Moldovans have the only communist party in power in Europe. Moreover, it is
popular, being re-elected in March. It is much less corrupt than its
predecessors and has been paying state employees on time and, indeed, upping
salaries and pensions.
There is a moral here. 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 increases, he said.
Moldova parliament debates status for Transnistria
Moldova's parliament recently kicked off a debate on unique legislation giving
the breakaway region Transnistria wide rights of self rule, according to Infotag
news agency. The bill, if passed, would reverse long-standing Moldovan
opposition to a semi-autonomous status for the province, and would possibly set
the stage for a first-ever fair plebiscite by Transnistria's citizens on a
return to Moldovan sovereignty.
Russian-speaking Transnistria seceded from Romanian-speaking Moldova after a
civil war ending in 1992. Since then the Moldovan government has insisted the
region return to Moldovan control without any change in Transnistria's legal
status, or expansion of Transnistrian autonomy. The legislation recognises
Transnistria as a unique administrative district of Moldova, and makes legal the
inclusion into that district of any village on the left bank of Dniestr River,
provided the village's inhabitants decide to do so in a free and fair
referendum. Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) would
conduct the vote, and its progress would be monitored by Council of Europe
Regional analysts see the proposal as critical first step to a renewal on
reunification talks between Chisinau and Tiraspol. Transnistria has walked out
on them repeatedly on grounds returning to Moldovan control, without guaranteed
autonomous status, would threaten the rights of ethnic Russians in Transnistria.
The bill among other guarantees gives Transnistrian citizens the right to use
the Russian language in the region without limit, and in communications and
documents used at the national level of government as well.
The language clause if made law would not only reverse a key Moldovan foreign
policy position held by Chisinau for more than a decade, but also effectively
concedes to Transnistria language rights terms that, in 1991, Moldova went to
war to oppose.
The legislation requires a 60 percent majority to become Moldovan law. President
Vladimir Voronin, whose Communist party controls 71 seats in the 101-member
house, supports the measure.
OSCE welcomes Transnistria law
Chief of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE)
permanent mission in Moldova William Hill welcomed the law on the status of
Transnistria passed by the Moldovan parliament, Interfax has reported.
Hill told the press on the law guarantees the granting of a special status to
Transnistria as part of Moldova, which is most important. Other issues,
including power sharing and the parties' guarantees are to be discussed after
democratic elections are held in the region, Hill said.
The dubiety of the Transnistria connection
Nevertheless, there is a new startling - and decidedly sinister -
development coming to light. Transnistria has long 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
Transnistria's existing authoritarian government supports Soviet-style central
planning and a powerful secret police. It has never allowed a fair election. 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 Russian 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 earlier this year, it
emerged that at least 38 Alazans were fitted with warheads containing up to 400g
of ceasium-137 and strontium-90. If they had fallen into terrorist hands
specialists said, they could have cause devastation for miles if 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 US$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.
UES acquires power plant in Moldova's rebel region
Russia's power grid operator Unified Energy Systems (UES) has bought a
controlling stake in a hydro power plant based in Moldova's breakaway
Transnistria region from a Russian-Belgian joint venture Saint Gidon Invest, BBC
Meanwhile, Transnistria region has launched criminal proceedings against Saint
Gidon Invest over fraud allegedly committed during the power plant's
privatisation in late 2003.
The Russian joint stock company Nordic, which is a subsidiary of the Russian
power giant, has acquired a 51 per cent stake in the Moldovan hydro power plant
closed joint stock company, which is controlled by the authorities of the
unrecognised Transnistria Moldovan Republic (as received, the plant was
previously owned by Saint Gidon Invest) Infotag news service reported.
Nordic paid 1.4bn roubles (US$50m), Unified Energy System's financial report
said. Infotag reported earlier that in 2003, UES and Gazprom participated in a
bid to privatise the power plant. However, the Transnistria economics ministry
sold the plant to the (Russian-Belgian) Saint Gidon Invest company, which paid
US$29m for a 100 per cent stake. Initially, the Transnistria region wanted to
sell the power plant for US$100m in order to be able to upgrade the plant and
boost Transnistria's state budget revenues.
The Moldovan hydro power plant, which was built in 1964, has not been doing well
recently. Only two or three generating sets out of 12 have been operational. The
plant urgently needed repairs and a thorough upgrade. For this reason, the
contract stipulated that the company that bought the plant should invest an
additional US$160.83 million in the upgrade and the upkeep of the town of
Dnestrovsk where the plant is based. When a deal to resell the power plant to
UES was mooted, the Transnistria authorities raised the issue of redistributing
investment commitments proportionally to the size of the stake to be sold.
"As a result of the latest deal, the power plant will be able to buy
cheaper gas," said Elena Chernenko, economics minister of Transnistria. UES
is interested in "the plant's high export potential which makes it possible
to supply electricity to the Balkan market and east European states." The
power plant privatisation controversy is not over yet. Transnistria prosecutors
have established that offences that can be qualified as fraud were committed
during the privatisation. Criminal proceedings have been launched.
The output of the Moldovan hydro power plant is 2,520 MWt, according to Infotag.
It is planned that six generating sets will be operational by the end of 2005,
the news service added.
After the upgrade programme is completed in 2008, nine generating sets are
expected to work. Experts from UES believe that both the plant's output and the
capacity of the local power grid will make it possible to export up to 1,200 MWt
to southeastern Europe.