(INTERVIEW) Vlad Plahotniuc: 2017 was a Year of Growth for the Republic of Moldova
Mr. Plahotniuc, how was the year 2017 for the government and for DPM? What would you refer to accomplishments and what would you like people to remember about the year that is coming to the end?
It is essential that all of us have an objective view: 2017 was a year of growth for Moldova. I mean first the growth of economy, but also the rise in people's confidence that the Government is consequent in working for them, even though there is still a lot to be done before people are able to have a better grip of the positive effects.
National economy went up by approximately 4% in 2017, and this good result had a direct reflection in increased incomes for people. The salaries went up by approximately 11% (I mean the average salary, in the state and private sector), pensions have been indexed by 10% and various allowances and benefits have also been increased (allowances for raising children, scholarships for students, benefits for doctors and nurses who go to work in rural areas). Economic growth also meant that new companies were opened and jobs were generated. Foreign investors continued coming in seeing that development partners trust the evolutions in Moldova and that the government is taking pro-business measures.
However, what I would like people to know is that most importantly the government started serious work to change attitude, to be more directly involved in solving their problems. The results will be even more clearly visible next year.
How would you assess the party's activity in 2017? I am asking you this because it has already been a year since you were elected president of DPM. How did DPM change during this year?
When I was elected the president of the party, I promised that DPM will get closer to people and will promote modernization in Moldova more decisively. We always had these two objectives in mind working both in the government and as a party. Field trips and meetings with citizens became more frequent and comprehensive, because it is essential to have a better communication with people. We learned a lot from the conversations we had, and this also helped us make important decisions - for example stop closing down schools, cancel fees that teachers had to pay for professional training, invest in infrastructure in territories, reduce red tape by introducing the one-stop shop. People want the government to be closer to their issues and if they see it, they give us confidence. This year's local elections prove it. In November, we won mayors' elections in 10 out of 10 localities (in 7 of them - in the first round). During the year, there were other local victories. The colleagues from the party worked a lot and I congratulate them on that.
The subject that dominated the year in politics was the introduction of the new voting system for parliamentary elections. Are you satisfied with the amendments that introduce the mixed system? What exactly makes the new system better than the previous one?
All the opinion polls showed that people wanted a change and this change had to include a component of direct voting. List-based voting maintained the political system closed and parties far from the citizens. That is why we came up with the initiative to change the electoral system and proposed uninominal voting system. We organized a large-scale information campaign in favour of this voting system and, mind you, we collected more than 800000 signatures from the citizens.
Mixed voting system was a compromise reached in the Parliament, considering the debates in the society and the need of the broadest possible political support. Full consensus is never possible, and progress is needed, particularly considering the fact that many parties promised to change the voting system before. Here we are. DPM managed to accomplish the change and I am convinced that the effects will be positive. Members of the Parliament will get closer to citizens, will be more responsive to their needs, more interested to work and solve the problems of the districts.
Having the mixed system adopted, are you tempted to run as a candidate?
Presently my priority is, together with DPM and colleagues from the Coalition, to assist the Government to accomplish as many results as possible to the benefit of our people, to implement necessary reforms. The elections are far, I am not concerned with this matter now.
2017 was also a year of collisions between the DPM-led government and president Dodon. On the other hand, some people say that these confrontations were just a show and accuse you of covert agreements with Igor Dodon. How do you see the relationship with the president of the country and what should we expect in the future?
From the very beginning, it was clear that there would be tensions between the government and the president. We support the European vector, while Igor Dodon is against Europe, and this certainly gives birth to disputes. We had several confrontations with him, but not for the sake of having a conflict, as important matters were at stake. You know very well, it was about a number of laws for modernization of the country and getting closer to the EU, about the preparation of the National Army for exercises abroad, about the position of the Defence Minister, which was vacant for many months. So, matters of principle, not superficial. We were, however, extremely cautious not to push the country to chaos. DPM is in power and our goal is to work for the citizens, not to start political wars. I am asking myself, though, why the right-wing opposition is taking so much effort to promote the theory of a secret agreement between DPM and Dodon. Maybe they are doing this to make sure that the fact that they are not in opposition to Igor Dodon goes unnoticed. They just leave him alone, which does not amaze me, because they were together in the streets at the meetings in 2015. May this is where the true secret agreement is.
How do you asses the relations between Moldova and external partners in 2017 - both in the West and in the East? What would you underscore in this sense?
Moldova showed its willingness to modernize and get closer to the West by deeds, not words, in 2017 as well. The external partners also responded with deeds, which is normal and makes us happy. Recently it has been a year since the Agreement with the IMF was signed, and the evaluation mission that came to Chisinau, stated that the program is going on well, Moldova followed its commitments and will soon receive the third tranche - 22 million dollars. The relations with the European Union also have an ascending trend, which is proven by the fact that the Memorandum for European Macrofinancial Assistance has been signed. I have no doubt that in 2018 we will receive this money as well, in parts, based on the accomplished reforms.
I would also like to remind you that in December I had a visit to the US, where I have received appreciation and encouragement from a number of American officials for the political and economic progress of Moldova. Our relations with the American and European partners are more and more solid and bring benefits for Moldova.
On the other hand, it is true that there issues that need to be clarified in our relations with Russian Federation. Moldova is not seeking confrontation with Russia, but we shall consequently support our national interests and objectives. We will plead for open and sincere dialog, because we want to have good relations between Moldova and Russia. I hope that 2018 will bring in positive elements that we expect.
You have finished the year with a political surprise, announcing reshuffles in the government and seven new ministers. Why did you do this? Was DPM dissatisfied with its own government?
We were pleased with the evolution of the Government and we said it: the confidence in Government today is four times greater compared to the level of confidence when we took the mandate. We have made reshuffles because we want more, more is needed and more can be done in terms of performance. We have consolidated the technocratic character of the Government and infused fresh forces for 2018, which will not be an easy year. The new governmental formula has all support of DPM and all the instruments needed to get even closer to people and continue reforms systematically.
Source: Political Almanac 2017