Why Does PAS Offend Pensioners?

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Christian RUSSU
The reduction of social expenditures amidst growing military spending and accelerated militarization is likely to become a pan-European tendency. Moldova leads this trend, minimizing the indexation of pensions while announcing plans to build an air defense system worth billions of euros    
The acting government has always referred to the improvement of the situation in the sphere of social support of citizens as one of its most significant achievements. Primarily, this is about pensions, the increase of which was an axis point in the PAS election programme. As a result, a minimum level of 2000 lei for pensioners with full length of service has been achieved. Moreover, pensions were increased through annual indexation. According to some reports, their average amount on the right bank exceeded the corresponding figures in the Transnistrian region, which had long been a source of pride for Tiraspol. Minister Alexei Buzu recently cited data that the minimum pension in Moldova has increased by 120% and the average pension by 70%. These successes, which the ruling party boasts so much about, are construed by the population with much skepticism. Firstly, the retirement age continues to go up: this year it has increased to 61 for women, and will be raised annually every 6 months until it reaches 63 by 2028. The length of service for a full pension is also growing. If in 2021 it was necessary to work 32 years, now it is 34. Moreover, the government began to play with the indexation of pensions, finding reasons not to carry it out at the level of inflation. That is why last year it was only 15% instead of the envisaged 31%. In addition, all the increases have faded against the galloping tariffs for public utilities, which simply depreciated most of the payments from the state. It is painful to admit, but the fact is that in recent years the authorities have repeatedly changed the legislation precisely in order to cut spending on social security for pensioners. Thus, it turned out that the increase in pensions this year could have been 25% if the 2019 legislation had been in force, 16% - if the 2014 coefficients had been used, and with the norms in 2018 and 2020 - 15% and 8% respectively. Instead, the government promised pensioners a 6% increase, but now even these modest figures are being revised downwards. It was Buzu who upset the citizens by announcing plans to index by only 4.2%. The minister advised pensioners to “show solidarity and contribute to the economic growth of the country”, on which their welfare will depend in the future. However, we see no tangible economic successes. On the contrary, as former Prime Minister Ion Chicu noted, during 36 months of Maia Sandu’s presidency, Moldova’s public debt increased by exactly 36 billion lei. External and internal loans were taken by the government at high interest rates, which already requires significant funds for their servicing. Thus, in 2023, interest and fees alone cost the state 5.3 billion lei (twice as much as in 2022), while the share of public debt in the country’s GDP reached a record 38%. It is truly difficult to counter such arguments. And no one wonders why there is no money not only for pensioners, but also for social service assistants and funding for after-school groups. However, the authorities, represented by their minions in the parliament and government, do not even bother the population with honest explanations, but use boorish excuses. For example, Radu Marian in response to a question about the difference in the increase of pensions and ministers’ salaries has said that there are far more pensioners than ministers. Therefore, the former receives a symbolic 4% increase, while the latter - 50% increase. Apparently, this is how social justice looks like under the current regime. And Dorin Recean claimed that pensions will be increased “depending on the need”, i.e. the government knows best. This, one might say, insulting manner of treating pensioners looks even more blasphemous amidst the authorities’ ambitious plans to further “strengthen the country’s defense capability”. I put it in quotes because the French radar, bought for colossal money by our standards, recently showed how the country’s defense actually “grows” when it failed to detect a crashed drone heading in our direction. Remarkably, officials stayed calm and were in no way embarrassed by this incident, but rather got inspired to announce the creation of a full-fledged air defense system at an enormous cost of several billion euros. It goes without saying that the main hopes in this matter are on our Western partners, because they are the ones who need it. If we look at the map of the US and NATO intelligence infrastructure in the region, the territory of Moldova is the only white spot within the theatre of military confrontation with Russia. Western spy planes are forced to regularly fly over our borders in order to provide intelligence in the interests of Ukraine. Therefore, the idea of deploying such systems in Moldova from a military point of view is rather obvious and, apparently, it is a priority of the near future. The PAS team is informed about this, which is proved by the excessive talkativeness of some of its representatives, who quite seriously speculate about the ability of our air defense systems not only to detect but also to shoot down the Russian “shaheds”. The plans of the key members of the Western military alliance paint a disappointing picture - the militarization of the European continent and the confrontation with Russia will only gain momentum. Germany is announcing the country’s transition to a military system with the aim of multiplying military supplies to Ukraine and bringing the defense budget up to the 2% of GDP required by NATO. Social programmes will certainly be affected. However, special attention in this regard should be paid to our strategic partners, the United States of America. The yet-to-be-approved US programme of aid to Ukraine until December 2024, which caused a heated argument, envisages the allocation of over 50bn dollars for military needs and over 9.5bn for economic needs. The military component consists of about 20bn, which will be used to replenish US weapons and equipment depots, 14bn for the purchase of weapons and ammunition from the US defense industry, as well as almost 14.8bn for military training, intelligence exchange and strengthening the presence in the European Command’s area of focus. The latter category mentions Moldova, with the air defense modernization programme announced by Dorin Recean. Our country also appears in the economic assistance package along with Ukraine. We are talking about $25 million to be spent by USAID to “support efforts to restore and improve sustainability in Moldova and Ukrainian territories reclaimed from Russia”. We might be the envy of our Ukrainian partners, as this package includes $7.85 billion in direct budgetary support, but Kyiv will not be able to rely on the possibility of plugging budgetary holes to pay pensioners. The US Congress has specifically stipulated that these allocations, as well as any other aid packages, hypothetically even for Moldova, cannot be used for pensions. Hence, all economic aid for Ukraine and, for Moldova on a residual principle, is provided exclusively for the military needs, with no possibility of allocating it to social payments. In such a context, we have to admit that social support policies for pensioners are no longer among the priorities both in our country and among our neighbors in Euro-Atlantic integration. We are already considered as a battleground for further confrontation with the Russian Federation, and almost all the aid will be used for this very purpose, which our authorities either do not want or cannot resist. All we can do is to watch how pensioners themselves, who are traditionally the most disciplined and therefore the most crucial part of the electorate, react to this.