Thursday, 14 December 2017 | News today: 14

Gruevski’s mega interview: Despite political crisis, we continue to implement economic policies that open new jobs (Part 5)

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In the last sequel of his mega interview with Telegraf.mk, VMRO-DPMNE leader, Nikola Gruevski refers to the economy, the influence of the crisis on the economic activities, as well as the future activities in regard to the development of economic relations and attracting investments.

T: Three new investments started with realization last week alone. In general, how is the investment business going during this period of political crisis? To what extent has it affected the economy? 

“Yes, three new investments started with realization in just 7-8 days and they will open 2,000 direct jobs. They will also open 500-600 indirect jobs.

This is something that makes me very happy. This is a concrete and direct solution to the biggest problem of the citizens, unemployment. This is something which has been a top priority in recent time and one of my main motifs for entering into the world of politics.

Let me remind you that mkky term started off with an unemployment rate of 38 percent and we’ve reduced it down to 24,6 percent. We’ve gone from 560.000 employees in the country to 710.000, a gain of 150.000 new jobs. While the unemployment rate still remains high, these gains seemed like an unachievable dream 10 years ago.

And this was all done in time of a global and later a European financial crisis that jointly lasted 4-5 years which is nearly half of my term in office, and now, for a year and half back, we have had the political crisis which is also adversely affecting the economy. But, as the leading coalition party, we will continue to implement economic policies that allow opening of new jobs”.

T: Will there be new activities in regards to that plan?

“Yes, here, I can briefly say that we are soon planning a second phase of the “Macedonia Employs” project, which yielded great results and has contributed to opening 19.000 new jobs in just a year.  We are continuing with the positive measures which will bring about new employments and strengthening of the economy”.

T: Will these measures or some other measures bring about higher salaries in Macedonia?

“Indirectly, these job openings will slowly increase pressure in the labor market in terms of increase of salaries for employees. This will happen because the labor value will increase as the number of unemployed persons drops. And vice versa. When there are too many people looking for a job at all costs, the labor value decreases.

This will lead to an increase in earnings and standard of living of the people.

If an employer has at his disposal thousands of unemployed persons who would work for EUR 200-300 per month, then why would he choose to pay more? But, if there are a lot less such persons, plus if the more capable ones are already employed, then he does not need that kind of workers, he will willingly, without any strikes or government interventions, start offering higher salaries.

So, the way to higher salaries and better standard of living is achieved through decreasing unemployment, which at the same time must be followed with an increase of productivity. And this has been happening over the past few years. Due to the excellent business conditions and a network of potential investors, there has been a constant decrease of unemployment.

Look, when we came in the Government, the World Bank ranked Macedonia as 94th in the world, according the conditions of doing business.  It now ranks as 12th on the world list, and 6th on the European list, right after four Scandinavian countries and England, which have much greater manufacturing and work expenditures.

As a head of the largest ruling party, which is foremost concerned with the priorities of the citizens, I am closely following this process. Furthermore, 17 new foreign investments invested in Macedonia since the start of the year. Some investors have started building new plants, while other opted to invest in refurbished old industrial halls, some have signed an agreement with the Government after long negotiations, and finally others are already producing from completed factories.

T: Are you being accused of neglecting domestic investors on account of foreign ones?

“I do not agree, domestic investors are not far behind foreign ones, they are constantly opening new jobs, but, the main force for export are the foreign investments, which is normal, because they are economically stronger and have larger capacities.

Major global companies, whose market includes the whole world and which have an enormous capital and experience, have entered in Macedonia. What is more important is that the foreign investors have started working with domestic companies. Last year alone, they bought goods in the amount of around EUR 50 million from domestic companies. This amount will rise with each coming year because domestic investors are becoming more and more aware of the new opportunities for cooperation with the conglomerate factories which are now in their neighborhood, like never before.

We have changed the conditions, we have gained their trust through the continuity of our economic policies and now things are working at a solid pace.

Two Macedonian owned companies, that were also able to meet the conditions, have also become part of the free economic zones. One is currently under construction, and the second one is being designed. Other interested investors are welcomed but they have to fulfill the conditions.

Negotiations with many other investors are also ongoing. I believe that part of them will end up with success”.

T: To what extent has the political crisis impacted investments and new job openings?

“It has had a great impact which is still ongoing. Success would have been greater if the crisis did not happen.  Last year, with an ongoing political crisis, we still had 30 foreign investments. But, some companies gave up or postponed their visits here, they postponed negotiations when the crisis peaked, some postponed their investment decisions and some left to invest in other states.

The success would have been greater if it weren’t for the political crisis. Despite the crisis, we have still had a solid success. Last year, with an ongoing political crisis, we had 30 companies invest in the country, but some did cancel or delay their visits and some went elsewhere.

Some of them said that they do not feel it is safe to invest during the political crisis and that they are not sure whether the banks will support them. Some have openly told us that they fear the opposition would change the terms of doing business and will increase taxes if they come to power.

Some have analyzed SDSM’s economic policies and are afraid of their possible takeover. Simply, some of the companies got scared and decided to either postpone their decisions or to invest in other countries. But, among other things, unfortunately, dragging the economy down was one of the goals of the opposition when they manufactured this crisis. This is why we constantly refer to them as a destructive opposition.

Instead of focusing on detecting our weaknesses, they should focus on coming up with a better concept, which would yield better results. But instead they choose to focus all their energy toward demeaning our successes, the successes which benefit Macedonia and its citizens. That is destruction. I cannot become more successful than you, but I will make you less sucessful so I can have a shot at beating you at elections. That is what the SDSM leadership is doing now and what it has done over the years. But the people see right through this and they will punish them at elections. But Zaev still does not get this. Let’s take the example of the bond issue.

Most countries plan a certain budget deficit for accelerated economy development and a budget part for returning old debts. So, almost all countries operate in the same manner. The deficit is covered through two sources, an exterior source, often through issuing a bond, and an interior source with local bonds to the banks, which, in turn, resolve the excess funds. And this is planned on an annual level.

And what did SDSM do? It used the opportunity with the Deputy Finance Minister who had a right to veto, to allot the adopted budget a half year bond. So liquidity decreased and payments were late for the companies, citizens, pensioners, farmers, police salaries, army, doctors, teachers and administration.

And all of this for what? So the citizens and the companies would get angry and not vote for VMRO-DPMNE, while SDSM is the alternative. The bigger irony is that a larger portion of the bond was intended for repaying an old state debt, which was also created by issuing a bond, with a higher interest rate, by SDSM 10 years ago.

T: There is some fear among the public regarding the bank savings accounts, how real is that?

“The same operation I referred to, they tried to do through other two methods. The pressure on the banks not to buy Government issued bonds, although that is in their interest, and artificially, with no basis tried to spark panic among the public to get it to withdraw bank deposits, which besides the direct pressure, sometimes even public, also affects the banks in terms of keeping the funds they planned for buying state bonds, because they need the money to pay out the deposits.

People who believed them were the biggest losers, because they lost the interest on their deposits, with total loses from this action estimated at four million EUR by the National Bank. Some of the bankers also succumbed to this pressure, not so much to the overt SDSM calls, but to the private pressure they were exposed to, such as publishing personal audio files for some of them.

I will say to SDSM: you try so hard, and gain so little. You are causing difficulties for the citizens, the voters, and finally, their anger is directed toward you, not toward us. I see that through the public opinion surveys we carry out over this period, a period when SDSM slowly but continually loses its support from people, but the trust toward VMRO-DPMNE grew with the same dynamics.

This happens because the people know everything already. A guy like Zaev cannot trick them, as much as he may think he can. People see ad follow everything. He may trick them for a moment, but soon everything is revealed. Just remember, before every elections, SDSM creates psychosis that there will be devaluation. It was the same in 2008, 2011, and 2014.

SDSM publicly says that if they were to come to power, they would raise the minimum wages to EUR 200, and average wages to EUR 500, and entire Strumica, if not wider, knows how much their president pays the employees in his private firms.

Plus, the average wages cannot be created by a decree, or a political decision, but rather with many investments, drastically reducing unemployment, and what I explained before. Exactly what SDSM now goes against with their actions, under the cover that they are looking for freedom and democracy.

Or take a third example. They keep pushing the theory that the state is heavily indebted. They have been saying the same thing for 10 years. According to the European Statistical Agency, Eurostat, the state debt amounts to 36.8 percent, and Macedonia is among the 5 least debt-ridden countries in Europe. And now what? Instead of being ashamed, he and his associates continue with the same rhetoric. They probably think the people do not understand a thing and that these lies will start being perceived as truth.

One cannot become a Prime Minister with cheap tricks and false promises. Especially if everyone has read you, like Zaev.

T: You mentioned that many people started to withdraw deposits from the banks. You are an economist and leader of the ruling party. What would you recommend to the citizens?

“Not to fall for these lies and speculations. There will be no devaluation, nor anything negative with their savings deposits. The only thing that can happen if they follow SDSM, is that they will lose their interest rates and expose themselves at risk of thefts if they keep the cash at home.

They should keep this in mind, before each elections SDSM will try to create this kind of psychosis. That is what they are good at, and for jobs, reforms, projects, ideas for better life, programs etc. they are tabula rasa.

Even in a 10 times worse crisis than this, the state and the Central Bank have mechanisms to manage the challenges and not allow devaluation, nor endanger the citizens’ savings. I was a Finance Minister during the conflict in 2001. There was a real war in the country. I was Prime Minister in the period of the largest world financial crisis in the past 80 years, and immediately after that the European debt crisis, which had a direct and strong negative effect on our economy.

We didn’t fail then, and we won’t fail now, when we are faced with mere 2.000 well paid protesters who throw paint on buildings and monuments and imagine to be part of some kind of a revolution.

 

T: Are you saying the protesters do it for money?

“Not all of them. But a third of the protesters, or maybe one half of them, are well renumerated by the organizers, mostly by NGO groups. They are also the most aggressive ones. They are people that not only are they paid, but live from that payment. A lot of money is involved in organizing these protests. The rest are a mix SDSM activists, sent by the party at every possible protest against us.

Moreover, there are the haters, who hate everyone who is ruling, because the reasons for their own personal failure they seek in the government, not themselves and their mistakes. There are also some hangers on, who naively believe that SDSM will soon be in office, and want to position themselves to accomplish some of their personal interests.

There are also those former officials who in every project of the Government recognize their own failure and lack of ideas, so they take out their frustrations hoping for a high position if SDSM wins.

Of course, among the protesters there are also some genuinely dissatisfied citizens, because of some mistakes and omissions on the part of the Government. And they are the reason why we are carefully analyzing the protests and looking for possible lessons for us out of them and in order to correct some of our actions and to move toward better behavior.

T: In the pre-electoral period, which was halted with the decision of the Constitutional Court, you announced several new projects that were supposed to be part of your election campaign and program. What will happen with the projects? Will they be realized or will you wait for elections?

“Yes, we have announced 40 new projects for the young people, 5 new major projects for agriculture workers, subsidies for pellet stoves instead of wood burning stoves, as well as the plans for gas pipelines in the filed of ecology, for instance, according to quality, forming an elite mathematical gymnasium, building a gymnasium in Aerodrom municipality, the “Youth Housing Project” and many more.

We have created those as a team within the party, and that is just a small part of the total program we had prepared. The ministers in the Government have already started the procedures for some of the projects we have announced, they made action plans and started the preparations. Some of them are realized, like the free public transportation for students, or, for example, the high school Wednesdays, or the opportunity for free train tickets twice a month for students.

The Agency for Youth and Sports has already started the plans for the construction of 150 basketball courts. The procedure for installing open air fitness machines in 28 settlements has also started. I had an opportunity to see the project, the machines are of very high quality.

The public call for construction of the open roman theater Skupi in Karpos, which will be a place for gathering of young people, at many musical, theatrical, and other art events, is ongoing. We are also finishing up the two mobile stages for the city squares, of the 6 we have announced. The same goes for the other projects for young people we have announced.

As regards agriculture, as it was announced, the subsidies for 80 percent of the drop-by-drop systems, and wells will begin in 2017, which are to increase the farmers’ income for at least 50 percent in some cultures, up to 300-400 percent in others, and that will eventually increase their earnings as well.

The same goes for the newly announced 80 percent subsidies for the purchase of high produce cattle, for the farmers that breed cattle, which will also significantly increase their earnings.

We are working on law changes to create opportunities for farmer councilors, after the methodology I described at the press conference, and there is also an action plan to realize the mega project for the construction of a contemporary, modern center, according to Dutch principles, for purchase of agriculture products in Macedonia.

The “Buy a House in the Countryside” project will be enabled as soon as the law changes are passed.

 

T: Having mentioned this project, what is going on with the “Youth Housing Project”?

“We are working on the project will full steam, which has been legally enabled and we already have the first users of the project, which will help a lot of young people to buy a house with the help of the state, a chance that has rarely anywhere happened.

Let me remind you that this project allows extra favorable credits, which subsides construction of a house for people under 35. Mayors of VMRO-DPMNE are working on creating more housing lots and the Government funds will help in constructing the infrastructure in the new settlements which will allow at least 100 locations for houses.

The other projects are already underway. The project for pellet stoves for heating will start functioning in 2017, which will allow 70 percent subsidies, for which the drafts for changes to the laws are in procedure. The value added tax for these stoves will be decreased, as well as for the pellets.

The tender procedures for construction the primary gas pipeline to Stip, Negotino, from Skopje to Gostivar, and from Negotino, through Prilep to Bitola, as the first phase of the project, are ongoing. The gas pipeline to Stip should be completed by next month.

We are establishing with the mayor of Aerodrom the location for the gymnasium, after which the preparations for the detailed urbanistic plan. The Bureau for Education Development is already working on the concept of the new elite mathematical gymnasium.

Shortly said, all that was promised, regardless of the postponement of the elections, will be fulfilled, and when the new program is published people will see that this is just a small portion of the great plan and vision of VMRO-DPMNE for the development of Macedonia and support of its people all over the county.