EXPERT: The Voice of Civil Society on the 100 Days of Gavrilița Government
November 14 marks 100 days of the activity of the Government of Moldova headed by Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița. Upon taking office, the Cabinet announced that it will prioritize four areas in the first months of its mandate: effective management of the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, initiation of justice reform and the anti-corruption package, increasing population incomes, social protection of vulnerable groups and resuming external funding.
ZdG discussed with several experts the promises and actions of the Government in the first 100 days of activity and presents an “alternative report” on this matter.
“Effective management of the health crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic”
Mihail Pîsla, Associate Professor, School of Management in Public Health
“Honestly speaking, I do not see radical differences in the management of the pandemic crisis by the old and the new governments. The problems remained the same: non-compliance with public health measures (mask, physical distance, hand hygiene, etc.); reluctance to vaccination, and gaps in communication with the population. Without solving these problems, it is difficult to count on success in the fight against the pandemic. It is necessary to rationalize measures aimed at solving the above-mentioned problems. Everything seems to be done correctly, however, I expected of the new government, so to speak, a new, more proactive, more creative breath. I also expected urgent measures to strengthen the capacity of the National Agency for Public Health, the key structure responsible for managing the pandemic. I haven’t seen anything yet. The Agency is still in the shadows, as it used to be. I also expected a revival of communication, a more efficient, more active, and more diversified communication, focused on target groups.”
Ala Tocarciuc, an international expert in public health
”In my opinion, the government has not quite coped with the pandemic crisis. More specifically, they failed to deal with the components of the pandemic crisis – prevention, follow-up, and treatment – in terms of short, medium, and long-term measures. Short-term actions were to aim at reducing the wave of illnesses and deaths. The medium and long-term actions were to boost vaccination rates. As the statistics show, there is a large number of new cases and deaths while the number of vaccine doses administered remains the same. There is a constant profound inefficiency in the prevention, follow-up, and treatment of COVID-19. It is good that they have adapted indicators for differentiating the areas, that the students’ vacation has been extended as a prevention tool, that they have updated the treatment protocol, that they have organized communication campaigns to stimulate vaccination with the participation of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary parties. However, the testing capacity is still low, and the management of patients with COVID-19 and their access to treatment still raises multiple questions.”
“Initiation of justice reform and the anti-corruption package”
Tatiana Savva, Director of Anticorruption and Integrity Program, Expert-Grup
“During these 100 days, there have been intentions of good governance and steps have been taken to ensure the integrity of the system. A few actions have been done that generated change. We have the law on the National Integrity Authority, a series of small projects, and some agreements related to respecting human rights, prevention of torture, prevention of abuses in the judiciary and penitentiary systems. At the same time, I draw attention to a few things. The government was too quick to declare that it will bring honest people to the helm of institutions. They have not succeeded, though, for the simple reason that you cannot fire a person, if he/she is not in a political function, you have to make an assessment of the system. As for the prosecution, I believe that currently the information gap still allows one to make speculations on the measures taken in the system. It is necessary to review how these institutions are managed, how these institutions achieve their performance objectives, and how they communicate.”
Cristina Țarnă, lawyer
“The ‘Good times for Moldova’ government program promised a deep cleansing of state institutions and the appointment of honest professionals to key positions. Afterward, they announced the cancellation of competitions, which is considered important in promoting a climate of integrity. Controversial dismissals and appointments to the Chișinău Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Justice followed. The latest appointments at the Supreme Court of Justice, contrary to the ban on promoting to higher courts magistrates targeted in the National Integrity Authority documents, have caused media scandals. The government justified their decision by saying they rely on the assessment of the Supreme Court of Justice judges in a few years’ time, which does not quite support their concern for integrity. Why promote corrupt judges if it is not about being obedient to the government? The fight against major corruption was among the immediate priorities. During these first 100 days, I rather watched the fight against those who should fight the great corruption – the Prosecutor’s Office. Despite massive criticism, I consider this approach well-reasoned. We’ll see whether the fight will go beyond the Prosecutor’s Office and will yield results on high-stake cases.”
Nadejda Hriptievschi, Director of Justice and Human Rights Program, Legal Resources Center from Moldova
“I think the most important thing that the new government has done in the field of justice and anti-corruption is the adoption of amendments to the Constitution related to the judiciary. These are important changes on the public agenda, which the previous Parliaments rejected twice since 2015. These changes can help strengthen the independence of individual judges and the justice system, if judges will use these changes in the first place, of course. It is, in particular, the cancellation of appointing judges for a five-year term and the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Justice by the President and not by the Parliament. Both changes exclude important levers of hierarchical and political influence over judges. The composition of the Superior Council of Magistracy has also changed; representatives of the law were excluded, including the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor General, thus excluding a potential lever of executive influence.”
Vadim Vieru, lawyer, Promo-LEX
”Only a few actions from the Government action plan for 2021-2022 were due in October, therefore, I will refer more to two actions that were not carried out on the government platform. I assess the first action as positive, and the second action – as a dangerous precedent.
Important constitutional changes, excluding the 5-year term: It is an important reform, long waited for. The term of appointment of judges for five years was previously used by “puppeteers” who controlled certain trials as an instrument of pressure on young judges. This constitutional change, as well as other changes related to the composition of the Superior Council of Magistracy, should make judges more courageous and willing to fight in the interests of justice.
The acting Prosecutor General was suspended and prosecuted: Former people returned to the leadership of the Prosecutor’s Office, and it is not clear how they want to achieve results on high-stake cases managed by the Prosecutor’s Office. And I have great doubts that there will be any results. The most important of these will be the investigation into the billion theft. The gravest thing, in my opinion, is the precedent. A precedent has been set at the limit of constitutionality, by which any majority will control the Prosecutor’s Office. I don’t think it’s a durable decision. In “justice reform” such precedents are harmful and dangerous to the rule of law and human rights, even if there is good faith behind it.”
“Social policy: increasing the income of the population, social protection of vulnerable groups.”
Mariana Iațco, an expert in social policy, Institute for Development and Social Initiatives Viitorul
“In the context of an economy affected by the pandemic, which generated a reduction in trade and industrial production, and, consequently, of revenues in the state budget, the Gavrilița Government identified budgetary resources to increase the minimum pension for the age limit to 2000 lei and index pensions by 3.86%. The Government has approved the draft law for the ratification of the Agreement between Moldova and Italy and Greece, which constitutes the basis of social guarantees for migrant workers from Moldova, who have been working in Italy or Greece. Unfortunately, we have no information about the results of the consultations on the draft 2030 National Health Strategy, proposed for debate by Viorica Dumbrăveanu, former Minister of Health from the Chicu Cabinet.”
Viorel Chivriga, an expert in economic policy, Institute for Development and Social Initiatives Viitorul
“An indisputable achievement is resolving the problems in the energy sector that needed an immediate solution, as well as some activities that are currently carried out with our neighbors – Romania and Ukraine in the field of Infrastructure. A fairly large number of Government Decisions have been approved, but I think an important achievement that can be quantified is the start of negotiations for the construction of roads and the bridge in Giurgiulesti and Galati, as well as the bridge in Ungheni. It is very difficult to carry out an analysis at this initial stage due to the fact that it’s too early and secondly, the transition from one government to another always generates crises. In this short period, in my opinion, Moldova has not only managed to maintain good relations with its main partners but has also improved its relations with other very important actors, thus ensuring a more pragmatic vision of the leaders.”
Stas Madan, senior economist, Expert-Grup
“Economically, the Government spent most of the time supplying the country with natural gas on reasonable terms. Although the crisis has eventually been overcome, and the new contract with Gazprom is advantageous for the country, given the current options and market conditions, there is a perception that the Government underestimated the scale of the problem when taking office. Another important milestone of the first 100 days of government is that Moldova and the International Monetary Fund have reached an expert-level agreement on a 40-month economic reform program worth about 564 million dollars. This will attract external resources from other development partners, and after the publication of the Memorandum, the society will have a schedule of reform commitments necessary to implement, with clear deadlines assumed by the Government. That being said, the period of 100 days does not allow us to unambiguously assess the Government’s activity.”
„Foreign policy: recovery of external funding”
Iulian Groza, executive director at the Institute for European Policies and Reforms
“If we look at the foreign policy, it is obvious that the 100 days have really yielded more results. No doubt, Moldova has come out of the isolation in which we found ourselves, at least, until the summer of this year. The restoration and consolidation of bilateral relations with strategic partners, first of all with Romania and Ukraine, is a clear sign and high-level visits have taken place during this period. Also, Moldova has efficiently coped with the crisis situation in recent months. We also saw an intensification of resuming the Moldovan dialogue with the European Union. At the same time, I noticed actuating relations with other countries, including Turkey, Russia, even though the Russian Federation is a difficult partner for Moldova. Maybe the Government should have foreseen the difficult situations in the bilateral relations with the Russian Federation and maybe they should have suggested a more active agenda in this respect as early as in the summer of this year and thus they could have prevented certain complications that appeared on the bilateral agenda with the Russian Federation on natural gas supply. Overall, as I said before, regarding foreign policy, the Government has set a rather busy agenda.
Victoria Roșca, a researcher in the field of foreign policy and security, Association for Foreign Policy
“The Gavrilița government succeeded to do in 100 days what was not succeeded in 30 years – fighting corruption, reviewing institutional functionality and resuming communication with neighbors, external partners for development and states of major bilateral importance for Moldova. The gas crisis was a major test that the current Government has successfully passed, proving that, despite the geopolitical situation, Moldova can discuss with difficult partners, demonstrating impartiality. In addition to the achievements of the Gavrilița Government, these 100 days highlighted the cohesion and support of the population, of the Moldovan society, which is a major element of the governing team’s success. The reforms to be implemented require time, effort, trust and support. The good times will come when each of us lays a brick in building a nation, where good governance and the rule of law become the main priority.
„Public administration and local autonomy”
Tatiana Badan, President of the Congress of Local Authorities of Moldova
“Our expectations were much higher because we expected that local development projects and those proposals that came from the Congress of Local Authorities shall be included in the Government agenda and its Action Plan. With regard to the Action Plan, we wanted to find in it a major issue – decentralization and consolidation of local autonomy. We, the local authorities, are waiting for an institutionalized dialogue, which does not exist yet. We hope it will be included on the Government’s agenda. A positive change is that there is no longer that pressure on mayors, which we felt under previous governments. We also liked Mr. Spinu’s announcement regarding the road fund. Probably, there will be more support from the road fund for the development of local road reconstruction works. We hope this will be achieved.”
Viorel Furdui, executive director of the Congress of Local Authorities of Moldova
“In our opinion, the Government and some ministries have quite serious problems of communication with the local administration and we are concerned about it. As a result of this situation, we found that the Government Action Plan was adopted in a strange way. In fact, we were not even consulted on local autonomy and decentralization issues. This seemed a bit strange for us because the country’s leadership said that there is a total openness for dialogue and for advancing through reforms in this area. However, we never met to discuss how to improve this Plan. It was approved, without giving us the opportunity to express our opinions. Currently, the situation is exactly the same with the Ministry of Finance, which is now working on the budget for 2022. Fiscal policy should contain concrete measures for local authorities, to strengthen local autonomy. As I said, there is no communication at all. So far, I think no concrete measures have been taken on consolidating local autonomy and decentralization.”
„Transparency and communication”
Anastasia Nani, Deputy Director, Center for Independent Journalism
“Transparency is essential for any democratic state. In the early months, the current government partially failed this test, a conclusion drawn from the notices sent to us by several fellow journalists. Some media representatives faced difficulties when requesting access to information of public interest and were left with no answers to many questions, while others faced the reluctance of the new ministers to talk to them and, respectively, to shed light on many issues of concern to citizens. The Center for Independent Journalism has taken steps to transmit these signals to the government, discussing with its representatives and journalists from several newsrooms. We can only hope that the main requests we made together with the media representatives were sent to all Government offices and that things will move in the right direction.”
Vitalie Călugăreanu, journalist
“Personally, I thought we would have a different start, with much sharper and more swift actions. I saw that when the government wanted to change certain things immediately, it skipped competitions and procedures and made that change, regardless of the reactions in the public space. I don’t understand, though, why they do things halfway in certain situations and keep telling us: “We’ll soon evaluate and dismiss them.” One hundred days after the Action and Solidarity Party government took office, we still have Dodon’s chief adviser at the National Anticorruption Center, given that the party received citizens’ massive votes precisely because of its anti-corruption promises. The people propelled by the Plahotniuc regime are still in office at the National Agency for Energy Regulation and decide how much money we, the citizens, will have in our pockets after paying the bills. Lupu, Chetraru, and others who served the Plahotniuc regime are still in office at the Court of Accounts. Many of those who, under Plahotniuc, acted as political police still remained in office at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Regarding the pandemic, there is no big difference between the way the former and the current governments managed it. It’s just that, as journalists, we have worse communication now with the ministry on COVID-19 issues.”