2015 will bring us protests, elections and debt repayment
If the government remains deaf to the citizens’ needs and if it ignores their discontent expressed through protests, then the chances for optimism are minimal that after a difficult year behind us we will enter a better one, analysts predict, and according to them it is certain that the way out of the political crisis will be sought in parliamentary elections – partial or snap
Authors: Iskra Opetceska and Goran Lefkov
In 2015 we will have early elections, political analysts predict. Such expectations are primarily based on events that we saw off 2014 with, which reflected students’ dissatisfaction, to which government cannot stick black labels to and discredit them, the political crisis in the legislature. From an economic aspect, 2015 will be very difficult, bonds will mature to repay the loans from last year, according to economic analysts.
Students dissatisfied with the Government’s announcement to introduce state exam at faculties, self-organized and supported by some of the professors went out to mass protests in several towns across the country.
“Students are a specific category of citizens that you cannot graft black past on the shoulders. I do not know anyone who has negative feelings towards them. That is why it is difficult for the government to discredit these people. Hence my opinion that only students can generate a more responsive government. It is difficult for the government to stigmatize professors when together with their students”, says analyst Albert Musliu.
The bill to reform higher education, which among other things provides Academy for professors, is in parliamentary procedure, and students organized in “Student plenum” announced new protests in 2015.
According to Risto Nikovski, former ambassador, columnist and analyst, student demonstrations raised avalanche of thoughts and feelings – both positive and negative:
“It is positive that they organized and showed some attitudes. It is good that students were together, not ethnically divided as it was before. It is negative that students appeared when someone had stepped on their foot, and for other important issues they are nowhere. For example, the state is faced with an illegal blockade, blackmails and ultimatums from Brussels, and we have not heard their reaction. Is it possible the young, who are always the most revolutionary and liberal to be quiet for such a crucial issue for this country? Taken as a whole, human rights do not fall from the sky, but everyone should be engaged to maximize them as much as possible. There is neither an ideal society, nor there will be, which is best demonstrated by the events in the US city Ferguson where a policeman killed a young black man, followed by unrest on a grand scale”, said Nikovski for Inbox 7.
If the government continues to behave irrationally I am not optimistic at all about what will happen in 2015, says Professor Jove Kekenovski.
“This situation cannot go on forever. I think people will happen to the government who must gather strength and resist its irrational behavior. I am afraid that even the government wants such a scenario, but I believe that the people and the international community will not allow something bad to happen”, says Kekenovski.
For analyst Albert Musliu it is certain that there will be early elections, which, he said, will be an opportunity for more stable Macedonia in 2015.
“The outcome of the political crisis is in early elections. They will be either complete and technical government will be established or partial and will only fill vacancies of the opposition. What is happening now is paradoxical. It is a paradox to vote to revoke the mandates of the opposition when they clearly let you know that they do not accept them and therefore deposit resignations”, said Musliu.
Contrary to previous forecasts for early parliamentary elections that would happen this year, Nikovski estimates that elections are possible to fill the vacancies in the legislature, but not by-elections at parliamentary level:
“I think that early general elections will not happen, but by-elections are possible to fill the seats of MPs who have withdrawn from the parliament. The boycott of the opposition brings serious harm to Macedonia internationally. We could not give a bigger trump to Washington, Brussels and Athens. At the same time the boycott destroys the opposition which if continues like this will find itself in a hopeless situation”, says Nikovski.
Albert Musliu, analyzing the past year in terms of achieving civil rights says that protests of bankruptcy workers in April 2014 and the disgruntled citizens of the security situation, as well as mass protests by students, freelancers, university professors and artists, are prerequisites the new 2015 to be just as interesting, if not more:
“We will have more interesting 2015 at least if we judge by the reaction of civil society organizations which in a way revived the idea of building a genuine civil society”, said Musliu.
After the student protests, activists and NGOs urged citizens to a protest publicly calling for greater involvement of the people in political decision-making. Under the motto “Politics among citizens”, the protesters asked the party elites to allow greater participation of citizens in creating political programs and more attention to the demands of ordinary people.
Freelancers with increased fees for the country
From the beginning of 2015 part-time hired workers themselves will have to pay fees to the state, increased to 35 percent of the value of the fee. Before introducing this legal decision such charges were paid by the employer, but only 10 percent of freelancers’ earnings. Because of the increased fees on freelancers, at the end of 2014 workers engaged on contract also raised their voice.
Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia (SSM) did not agree with the freelancers’ attitude. From there they believe that the new way of payment of fees is in addition to the workers because unemployment will be reduced. Despite disagreements, the head of SSM, Zivko Mitreski for Inbox7 says in the new 2015 the Federation will diligently strive to enhance workers’ rights.
“We will continue with the strategy of signing collective agreements in the industry and companies where there is not any. We will continue the process of encouraging social dialogue at the local level by further formation of local economic and social councils. We will continue the talks on signing collective agreements in the public sector, and we will work on the concept of improving the process of peaceful settlement of disputes. We will promote the capacity to strengthen the position of trade unions at all levels including smaller companies”, says Mitreski.
Apart from the freelancers the Federation of Trade Unions supported neither the bankruptcy workers who protested in front of the Government, SSM and MRTV in April last year seeking a permanent solution to their financial compensation. SSM assessed this protest as political and said it would not allow to be drawn into political confrontations.
From the economic angle: big debt repayment is awaiting
Economic analysts say that 2015 will be very difficult due to the borrowings of the state and many obligations to repay the loans. This year the budget is expected to rise. It is projected at around 3 billion Euros.
From an economic point of view, however, 2014 should be forgotten as quickly as possible. Economic parameters that citizens are most interested in, that is unemployment and the standard of living, have deteriorated.
Last year the Government did well in attracting foreign investments, several automotive companies started, as Amphenol in Kocani, Markkart in Veles, at the end of the year they announced a factory in Ohrid. Existing foreign companies in the country advertised they required thousands of workers; however, there is no bigger movement on the labor market.
So according to the Employment Agency, the number of unemployed persons in November 2014 (when there is data for), compared to the same period in 2013 increased. In November 2013 216,000 unemployed and job seekers were registered, while in the same month 2014 225,000 citizens were found in this category of people, an increase for 9,000 unemployed.
According to the State Statistical Office, the index of the cost of living has remained the same.
And in 2014 the deficit of social funds is great. So every year from the state budget hundreds of millions of Euros are transferred to be able to pay pensions. What marked 2014 in this regard is that the Government with two laws tried to alleviate this shortage. The first move was with the amendments in the Law on maternity leave, where the proposer required that the companies pay mothers and later the Health Insurance Fund to return the money to the companies. Annually, on this basis the Health Insurance paid 40 million Euros. This law did not get the green light from the government.
The second law in this respect is the taxation of fees of around 120,000 citizens. With this measure Minister Zoran Stavrevski says that all will equally contribute to the health insurance system. With this measure next year about 50 million Euros are expected.
The debt is constantly increasing. There is almost no data on internal and external indebtedness. The Government announces a formulation as a debt to the central bank which does not show the total debt of the country. According to Petar Goshev, former Minister of Finance and Governor of the National Bank, the public debt is over 3 billion Euros and more than 40% of GDP, which is unsustainable for the Macedonian economy.
Last year the Government set a record in borrowing. With the issuance of the Eurobond in July the state се задолжи со is obliged to 670 million Euros. This is the largest debt in the history of independent Macedonia. With a signature the state got into debts with about 10% of gross domestic product.
Editor: Stojanka Mitreska