Wednesday, 1 April 2020 | News today: 0

Gruevski says the economy suffered, but is able to withstand the SDSM induced crisis

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VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski says that the political crisis has had some effect on economic growth, but adds that the economy, with him as Prime Minister and earlier, as Finance Minister, has weathered much worse situations than “the 2.000 mostly well paid protesters we have now”. Gruevski adds that pressure was put by the opposition SDSM party on some businessmen using the wiretaps they have, to try to deepen the economic difficulties, but this is backfiring and is making SDSM even less liked in the public.

“Lately we’ve seen the start of three new foreign investments in only one week, which will add 2.000 direct new jobs, with indirect gains expected to amount to additional 500-600 jobs. This is something that makes me very happy, because reducing the unemployment level was at the top of my priorities. My 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 when we started. And this was all done in time of a global and later a European financial crisis, which covered 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”, Gruevski says in the the fifth, final part of his interview with the Telegraf news site.

One step that Gruevski annouced is a second phase of the Employing Macedonia program, that allowed significant cuts in taxes paid on salaried incomes, for companies that hire people from a long list of vulnerable categories. Gruevski says that this one year program, which has contributed to opening 19.000 new jobs, helps push wages higher, as companies are forced to improve the salaries and conditions they offer to a shrinking pool of unemployed people. The former Prime Minister says that 17 foreign companies invested in Macedonia since the start of the year, some building new plants, others opting to invest in refurbished old industrial halls, and some already producing from completed factories. Two Macedonian owned companies were also able to meet the criteria to set their producing lines in the free economic zones, which offer significant tax and regulatory cuts.

“The success would have been greater if it weren’t for the political crisis. Last year, despite the crisis, we had 30 companies invest in the country, but some did cancel or delay their visits and some went elsewhere. 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. They have analyzed SDSM’s economic policies and are afraid of their possible takeover. 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”, Gruevski adds in his interview with Telegraf, citing a move by the SDSM appointed technical Deputy Finance Minister Kire Naumov to halve the bond issue to service the deficit, which, Gruevski says, could have caused delays in payments of salaries of public employees, the army, police and retirement incomes.

“SDSM also put pressure on the banks not to buy Government issued bonds, and tried to spark panic among the public to get it to withdraw bank 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”. The banker Gruevski likely referred to in the Telegraf interview is Hari Kostov, director of the Komercijalna Bank and former Prime Minister and Interior Minister appointed by SDSM, who had an audio tape of his personal conversation with another businessman published on Youtube, in an apparent attempt to show him that more of his conversations can become public. The National Bank says that the short trend of deposit withdrawals has reversed, and the denar recovered after briefly losing ground to the euro.

“I keep telling 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”, Gruevski said, citing public opinion research showing that VMRO-DPMNE is extending its significant lead over SDSM, even as the opposition party is organizing protests in Skopje and other cities, throwing paint on public institutions.

Gruevski says that the state and the Central Bank have been under much greater pressures, such as during the 2001 conflict, and were able to withstand much greater challenges. “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. A third of the protesters are well renumerated by the organizers, mostly by NGO groups. They are also the most aggressive ones. A lot of money is involved in organizing these protests. The rest are a mix of SDSM activists, who take part in all of their protests, and haters, unaccomplished persons who are also permanent feature at all protests. 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. 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”, Gruevski told Telegraf.