Social Outrage Imminent in Moldova?

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The snowballing socio-economic problems in the country made of a sharp increase in tariffs, high inflation, rising prices and the lack of a clear anti-crisis program to support the population threatens the authorities with large-scale manifestations of popular discontent this year
Semyon ALBU, RTA: The year begins with disturbing news. The main source of problems, as in the last fall, is related to gas. Only in our incompetent authorities could think that after urgent signing of an agreement with Gazprom, the issue could be resolved “in the long run”. However, even then many predicted that the conclusion of a new contract would only stall, but not resolve the gas crisis. And that’s, in fact, what happened. It is especially ironic to remember the victorious tone the news was spread in last October about the end of negotiations with Gazprom. Pro-government political analysts unanimously repeated that our officials were so sly to get the “beneficial” gas price from the Russian monopolist, without even taking any political obligations. However, it turned out later, that no one tried to obligate them. Andrei Spinu was proud to present the new contract, explaining that the cost of blue fuel for it is much lower than world quotations, and at the beginning of the year it will get even better. It’s no surprise that Spinu’s forecast turned out to be not that precise. After all, prices have not only not fallen, but have grown by $ 200 per thousand cubic meters. And this leads to several big problems at once. The first one is that with the price spiking, Moldovagaz simply does not have enough money to pay for Russian gas, and any omission of payment, under the “beneficial” contract’s terms, leads to an instant cessation of supplies. Apparently, we will have to get another loan and conduct difficult negotiations with Moscow on altering the advance formula. Of course, they could’ve assessed the risks beforehand… But that’s not our style, right? The second problem is a new increase in tariffs, that rocketed last year. Now they propose to increase the current, already increased cost by another forty percent. It’s easy to imagine how this will “work” for the population. Moreover, the government is in no hurry to present any program of support measures, and, judging by the previous ones, it is not something that’s worth hoping for. Spinu keeps calling the current gas price, exceeding the last year’s five times, to be very “good”, and insisting that all the troubles are caused exclusively by the pan-European crisis, so the Cabinet of Ministers has nothing to be blamed for. This would be true if the authorities really used every possibility to negotiate on more favorable terms. As we know, this is absolutely not the case. The main tool – contacts at the highest level – was neglected. And Maia Sandu’s arrogant disregard of the gas problem as a whole, at least at first, and the events of the CIS and the Eurasian Union, where there were all chances to solve the problem, didn’t make it better. Now it even turns out that our president turned to Angela Merkel during the crisis with a request to talk to Vladimir Putin – and what’s stopped her from doing it personally? In addition to gas, the electricity tariff will soon increase as well – it’ll almost double. And this is even before the renegotiating the contract for the electricity supply, when the price is likely to rise significantly. And then, will the tariff rise again? The Cabinet of Ministers just throw their hands up – they say it is better to postpone the increase at least until April, but “we are waiting for the ANRE’s decision”. In this case, don't even get me started on fuel, sold at our country’s record price. The rapid increase in energy and fuel prices at the end of the year has extremely accelerated inflation and the cost of food and goods. Only according to official statistics, the food prices, for example, rose by 17.5%, and in some categories the growth was up to 40% or even more. In general, last year’s inflation was the highest in the last two decades. The situation won’t get any better this year. The funny thing is that the annual indexation of pensions or other social benefits will be recalculated not based not these indicators, but on the average annual inflation rate, which the National Bureau of Statistics has determined at only 5%. How convenient! It’s no wonder that even the International Monetary Fund, which recently approved a new program for almost $ 600 million for our country, considers the risk of widespread public discontent in Moldova highly probable. Moreover, according to the IMF, social tension will inter alia be provoked by the “current policy”. Indeed, the “yellow” team’s blunders have already cost us a lot: it is enough to recall the millions of dollars spent on gas purchases from alternative sources at insane prices. Now it seems that this was just the beginning. Clumsy actions in the energy sector bring about disastrous consequences for the country’s population which has to confront crippling tariffs and prices. In what way does the government plan to get out of this situation? No creative ideas should definitely be expected. Obviously, handouts from the Cabinet of Ministers will eventually follow, and the bills will again feature a proud note “Government Assistance”, which looks pretty crazy because this is actually our money. Some experts fear that soon public funds may not be enough even for basic payments and they will have to be withdrawn from other important budget items. I think it will not come to delays in salaries and pensions in the near future, but the fact is that the money that could be spent on development, infrastructure projects, modernization of the agro-industrial sector and so on will now have to be spent in order to somehow compensate the population for the damage caused by the incompetence of the ruling party’s managers. Therefore, most of the grant and loan money yet to come from abroad this year will mainly be applied towards the basic needs. This means, they will be obviously spent on food, gradually increasing the burden on the budget to handle these very loans. It is hard to tell what here is about the development. And with the galloping inflation and prices, even the salary of 15,000 lei coveted by PAS may soon be insufficient for any comfortable life. With such socio-economic upheavals in any other country, crowds of discontented people would have already flooded the streets. And indeed, findings of the polls make it quite obvious that people are deeply unhappy with the authorities, and it will only get worse. The protest mood is already in the air, and the only thing left is to find those who will lead the discontented masses and set them in motion. Right now, both the right and left opposition are already seriously threatening the authorities to take people to the streets. But whether it will come to real action is a big question. As we know, the Western embassies, primarily the American one, have the final say in our policy. The US embassy is completely satisfied with the current regime - so, in the event of a broad protest movement, the ruling party will definitely be able to rely on huge political support from the West, while the opposition will face no less huge problems, also from the West. And this fact is probably taken into account in the camp of those who oppose the current government. On the other hand, things are already so bad in the country that we should not exclude the possibility of spontaneous protests - and there will be someone to lead them.