Who Helps Moldova in the Midst of Epidemic?

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Vladimir ROTAR The world has not left Moldova alone in the fight against the epidemic: humanitarian and financial assistance is arriving from both the West and the East. Still, there are nuances The epidemic dynamics in Moldova has confirmed the initial discouraging forecasts. Even before the first infected people appeared in the country, the Republic of Moldova received only 31.1 points out of 100 possible (“below average”), taking 120th place, in the coronavirus preparedness index compiled by the Global Health Security Index. The explosive growth of the sick, the large number of infected among doctors and law enforcement officials and other unpleasant facts only solidified the opinion that the republic was not ready for an effective fight against the pandemic. In such conditions, the question has become more acute than ever about a massive international support to Moldova, both humanitarian and financial. Judging by the headlines, there were no problems with this. However, recently, President Igor Dodon said that only a handful of countries have provided real assistance to our country, and, according to Prime Minister Ion Chicu, the budget still has not received a cent of money from abroad. So who and how actually is helping Moldova? Aid from the East... One of the first countries to respond was the Russian Federation. At the end of March, 10,000 express tests for coronavirus laboratory diagnosis were delivered by special flight from Moscow to Chisinau. As stated, this is only the first batch of humanitarian aid. It is possible that Moldova will be able to count on receiving the latest Russian drugs, which are developed by scientists of the Russian Federation specifically to combat COVID-19. In strategic terms, a Russian loan of 200 million euros will become a powerful help to Chisinau. The terms for obtaining this loan were repeatedly delayed, but judging by Igor Dodon’s comments, the money will hit the account next week. As you know, initially the loan was intended to finance road construction. However, now it is planned to direct at least part of these funds to the healthcare system, as reported by Finance Minister Sergiu Puscuta. According to the draft loan agreement, which is already at the final stage of the procedure, there is no direct connection between the purpose of this loan and the repair of roads. This loan is intended to finance the budgetary needs of the Republic of Moldova,” Puscuta said. Thus, the government receives a solid financial cushion, which, of course, will mitigate the expected sharp decline in the national economy. Moreover, the loan was concluded on fairly favorable terms: for 10 years and at only 2 percent. The People’s Republic of China also provides great support. Moldova has already received from the PRC several thousand tests for coronavirus, as well as 3 tons of humanitarian aid cargo, including the funds that are so necessary now to protect medical personnel. Information also appeared about China’s readiness to provide borrowed money to the Government of the Republic of Moldova, but at the moment nothing is known about such negotiations. ... and the West Among the countries that supported Moldova, the United States were mentioned by both Dodon and Chicu. This is true, despite the fact that the United States itself is now in the midst of a pandemic. On March 10, Ambassador Dereck Hogan during a meeting with the head of the Cabinet outlined Washington’s readiness to help financially and technically. On March 27, the US government, through the Agency for International Development, allocated $ 1.2 million to combat coronavirus in Moldova. This money will be used, among other things, to equip technically the diagnostic laboratories, purchase disinfectants, develop a public information system, etc. In addition, the US Embassy handed over 25 computers to the COVID-19 Chisinau center to manage patient data. 200 thousand dollars through UNDP were sent to Moldova by Switzerland to purchase protective clothing for medical personnel. Earlier, Switzerland also donated 50 thousand as part of the Healthy Life project for the purchase and distribution of disposable medical masks, gloves and disinfectants in medical institutions of the Republic of Moldova. Positive news came recently from the IMF. According to the head of state, the International Monetary Fund has agreed to provide Moldova with an extra loan of 200 million euros. The main feature of this tranche will be the absence of prerequisites usually made by this organization for the government. Money, according to Ion Chicu, should be allocated next week. And what about the European Union? From the very beginning, the main hopes in the republic in terms of financial support were connected with the European Union. Nevertheless, for a long time, the EU bureaucratic machine openly “slowed down” with adopting support measures for both the most affected members of the Union, such as Spain and Italy, and partner states on its borders. Only on March 31, the European Commission issued a statement on measures to support members of the Eastern Partnership. According to a press release, the total assistance package to 6 countries participating in the program, including Moldova, will amount to about 840 million euros. 140 of them were assigned to the most urgent needs: 30 million to support the health sector (purchase and supply of medical equipment, protective suits, masks, etc.), 11.3 million – to vulnerable categories of the population, 100 million – to small and medium enterprises caught in a difficult situation. The remaining amount of €700 million will be used to support business and provide quick liquidity in the region. “This multi-component support includes both urgent assistance and near- and med-term support - it focuses more on social sphere, economy and liquidation of the crisis consequences,” Head of the EU Delegation Peter Michalko said. Moldova will receive 87 million euros from the above sum. According to the opposition, Chisinau could count on a much larger piece of the EU’s pie, if not for Brussels’s bad opinion about the current government in Moldova. However, in my opinion, given the number of countries and the proportions of the population, the distributed quotas in general seem quite fair. On the other hand, the Moldovan authorities’ happiness about this assistance seems to be a bit simulated. Chisinau’s desire to at least somehow show the population that relations with the EU did not roll back to a complete freeze during the Democrats rule is understandable. But the fact is that the government will not get anything directly from the money mentioned. Brussels still does not trust the Social Democratic coalition and therefore will independently engage in the distribution of funds for those purposes that it considers necessary. There are obvious pros and cons in this approach. Of course, by adhering to the tactics of “regions receive aid, the center receives nothing,” the EU will as far as possible bypass the inevitable corruption component and more effectively implement the projects it plans. In addition, in doing so, Brussels deprives current regime, which it has no sympathy with, of chances to once again be promoted due to “European support”. The flip side of the coin is the rapidly fading influence of the EU in our country, which has always been based on the flows of financial assistance. In their absence, the Moldovan authorities no longer feel obliged to the European Union, which also affects the rhetoric of the republic’s leadership, venturing to openly criticize Brussels. In general, as you can understand, Chicu’s words about the lack of financial assistance to the budget are not unreasonable. In this regard, two loans will be of key importance - from Russia and the IMF, which are due next week. If there are no problems with both loans, then the 400 million received should be enough to prevent the worst-case scenarios of a pandemic. Otherwise, the government will have almost no opportunity to provide assistance to the population during the crisis period.