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Interview for Radio Free Europe and Basa-Press News Agency
by Edgardo Ruggiero, IMF Resident Representative in Moldova

Premier Tarlev has announced that an IMF mission is to come to Chisinau in the nearest future. Does this mean that the prior actions have been fulfilled by the Moldovan Government, or the mission will have other objectives? In particular, did the Government announce the costs of administrative reform, have they submitted a revised law on PSI and was the business climate improved?

The Pre-Shipment Inspection is only one of the prior actions that we are discussing with the government. There are a number of other issues that we are discussing with them. For example, we are discussing how to eliminate export restrictions. And we are discussing the budgets of the central government and the Social Fund. We are also discussing a couple of prior actions in the area of the National Bank. 

Now, in all these prior actions we are at different levels of agreement. In some cases we are very close to an agreement, in some of these cases we are just doing the technical check, that everything is okay. For example, for export restriction we will need to see that in fact these export restrictions have been eliminated. And this is about the prior actions. But beyond the prior actions there are other issues that undermine the government’ financial position in the medium term. There are a number of issues in the fiscal area, for example, the territorial reform – we simply cannot accept that there well be no cost associated to this territorial reform. Finally, the government is working on these costs estimates and very soon we will be able to sit with the government and look at these estimates. But we have not yet seen these estimates. But the reform has been approved before actually having recognized that there will be some costs associated to it. 

In general, what we find is that measures are taken without really fully taking into account the impact on expenditures. That is the key problem.  

We, as an institution that wants to safeguard the ability of this country to grow, we also want to safeguard the budget of this country in the medium term. We have to look ahead, we have to look at what’s going to happen with the 2004 budget. So, for example, if there is a proposal for wage increases, for a law that increases wages for 5 or 6 years, we want to know first of all what’s going to happen to the budgets, what’s the impact of this law on the budget for 2004 and beyond. 2003 is not enough, we need to look at 2004 and beyond. 

A lot of what we are going to do during the next mission has to do with sustainability in the medium term. It is not only about 2003, it is also about 2004 and the following years. We have to be responsible. Responsible is the key word. We need to look at what are the expenditure commitments of the government in the medium term. So, when the government approves a spending law – wages, territorial reform, pensions - we need to  compare that with the revenue the government is going to receive and expenditures that are already planned and due for the following years. For example, we need to look at when is the peak in interest payments to service external debt. So, it’s a matter of medium term, it’s a matter of responsibility.  

Our job is to look ahead. But when a ministry makes a proposal for spending increases in a particular sector, it does not look ahead, it looks at what it can get for their ministry, what they can get for the people that will vote for them.  

Are you referring here to the local elections set for May-25 and to personal interests that some people in the government have towards this? 

I’m referring to these laws, I’m not referring to this particular election campaign. As you know, economists have written articles about what is referred to as “electoral cycle” – in US, in Europe, in many countries. What you tend to see near elections is, in 85% of countries in the world, a pressure for spending increases. So, if it happens in Moldova, I would not be surprised. 

This is a very important part of the next mission. If we cannot agree on the medium term financial position of the government, the budgets in the medium term, then we cannot conclude the review.

A lot of decisions cost money and we’ll need to assess how much do they cost. We cannot sign on a program that has too many decisions that cost too much money.  

Could you please tell us some key figures [general aspects] from the government’s medium term program agreed with the Fund? 

No, that we’ll discuss with the government. The government is also looking at the medium term, they are now producing some medium term estimates… We will discuss that.

And the key again here is, and I cannot underline this enough, responsibility. We need to be responsible. We need to look ahead. If I’m short sighted and I need to have a look at 2004, I need to put my glasses on, I need to see what’s happening in the next year.  

What can you say about the present relations between the IMF and the Moldovan Government, while Premier Tarlev talks about some suggestions made to IMF by some "pseudo-patriots” and “enemies of the country”? 

I really do not know what Tarlev meant by “enemies of the state”.

We talk to so many people. I talk to journalists, I talk to representatives of non-government organizations, I talk to ministers, I talk to employees of ministers, I talk to international consultants that are here for technical assistance, I talk to members of parliament of every faction, I talk to ambassadors, I talk to business people – it’s very difficult for me to understand who these “enemies of the state” are. One thing I can tell you is that we, as an institution, have a duty to talk to the people that want to talk to us. And also we have a duty and a responsibility towards the people of the country, to make sure that their living standards improve and to protect the interests of the people, to make sure that a country grows without too much inflation and the benefits of growth are shared by as many people as possible.  

What are your present relations with the government, are those at power sincere and open to collaboration with IMF, or it would be better if we don’t tackle this subject? 

It’s better not to talk about this now. 

There were press reports that, according to National Bank, that there are growing arrears on foreign debt service payments. Could you confirm these reports and comment on them? 

Arrears on foreign debt service… You need to ask the National Bank of Moldova about this.  As you know, there are some arrears on some particular bonds but these have been there for a long time, it’s not news. 

There were some press reports, in particular there were a few news items released by BASA-press, which say that at the beginning of this year there were accumulated new arrears on external debt service. But, as far as we know, the government has the commitment not to allow for an increase in arrears. 

This we will verify. All this information that we receive, for example - in some cases an enterprise, or  international institutions say that the government is not paying them - then we need to go and check what the situation is. It takes time. We check these things during the mission. I can not tell you unless I am 100% sure that there are arrears. 

The inflation in April was, according to the Statistics Department, 1.5%, but cumulative inflation in the first 4 months, the inflation stood at 6.2%. Does these facts bother IMF, and what would the Fund recommend in matters of macroeconomic indicators? 

Inflation was 1.5 percent in April. Actually, it was lower than in April 2002 by 0.4%. As a monthly inflation, it is very high but not as high as last year. What you say is correct in your question. Inflation in the first four months has been very high, but we expect deflation in summer.

As every year in Moldova there’s deflation in summer - prices will go down and inflation will be reduced. By how much it would be reduced we really can not tell.

We expect at this point in time something like 7% by the end of the year, but it could be anything between 6% and 8%. It is not much of a difference. 

What can you say now about other macroeconomic indicators? 

Referring to GDP: we are currently projecting something like around 5%. Something higher than 5%.  These numbers will most probably change during this mission. This is what the mission is about: revise these numbers also.  

Can you tell us now the exact date when the IMF mission, that we referred to earlier, will come to Chisinau?  

Very likely, we will start working on the 5th through the 18th of June. These dates can change any time. You never know. We will have a press conference before the mission, so that all the journalists can come and we can discuss in more detail what the mission is going to do etc.


Interviu acordat Postului de Radio Europa Libera si Agentiei BASA-press de catre Edgardo Ruggiero, rezidentul FMI in Republica Moldova

Intrebare: Premierul Tarlev a anuntat ca o misiune a FMI urmeaza sa soseasca la Chisinau in viitorul apropiat. Inseamna oare aceasta ca Guvernul a realizat actiunile preliminare convenite cu Fondul sau misiunea va avea alte obiective? In particular, a anuntat Guvernul costul reformei administrative, a prezentat deja varianta revizuita a legii cu privire la inspectia inainte de expeditie, a reusit sa faca ceva pentru a imbunatati climatul de afaceri?

Raspuns: Inspectia inainte de expeditie este doar una dintre actiunile preliminare pe care le discutam cu Guvernul. Exista si un sir de alte probleme pe car ele discutam cu ei, ca, de exemplu, eliminarea restrictiilor la export, bugetele de stat si cel al asigurarilor sociale. Totodata, in discutie se afla si citeva actiuni preliminare ce tin de competenta Bancii Nationale. 

Si in privinta tuturor acestor actiuni preliminare ne situam la diferite etape de intelegere. In unele cazuri suntem foarte aproape de a ajunge la un acord, in cazul altora mai facem doar verificarile de ordin tehnic, ca sa avem siguranta ca totul e in regula. De exemplu, in cazul restrictiilor la export, trebuie sa vedem clar ca ele au fost realmente eliminate. Dincolo de aceste actiuni preliminare, exista si o serie de alte chestiuni care submineaza pozitia financiara a guvernului pe termen mediu. 

Exista o serie de probleme ce tin de sistemul fiscal, de exemplu reforma teritorial-administrativa. Nu putem accepta pur si simplu declaratiile ca nu vor exista cheltuieli legate de efectuarea acesteia. Guvernul definitiveaza aceste cheltuieli si foarte curind vom putea discuta cu guvernul pe marginea lor. Insa noi nu am vazut inca aceste estimari. Reforma a fost insa aprobata inainte de a recunoaste ca vor exista anumite cheltuieli legate de aceasta. 

In general, remarcam ca aceste masuri sunt luate fara a se tine cont de impactul asupra cheltuielilor. Aceasta este problema cheie. 

Fondul, ca o institutie ce ar vrea sa asigure cresterea economica in aceasta tara, am vrea de asemenea sa asiguram bugetul acestei tari pe termen mediu. Trebuie sa privim inainte, ce se va intimpla cu bugetul pentru anul 2004. Astfel, daca, de exemplu, apare o propunere de fi majorate salariile, sa zicem este propusa o lege prin care se majoreaza salariile pentru urmatorii cinci sau sase ani, am vrea in primul rand sa stim care va fi impactul acesteea asupra bugetelor pentru anii viitori. Anul 2003 nu este suficient, trebuie sa ne uitam si la anul 2004, si la cei viitori.

Multe din chestiunile ce vor fi luate in discutie in cadrul viitoarei misiuni a FMI tin de durabilitatea pe termen mediu. Nu este vorba doar de 2003, este analizat si anul 2004, si anii urmatori. Trebuie sa fim responsabili. Responsabilitatea e cuvintul cheie. Trebuie sa vedem cheltuielile pe care intentioneaza sa le efectueze guvernul pe termen mediu. Astfel, în momentul in care guvernul aproba o lege ce implica cheltuieli suplimentare - salarii, pensii, reforma teritoriala - trebuie sa comparam aceste cifre cu veniturile pe care le asteapta guvernul si cu cheltuielile deja planificate si care vor trebui facute in anii urmatori. De exemplu, trebuie sa vedem cind este virful de plata a serviciului datoriei externe. Este vorba, deci, de actiuni pe termen mediu, de responsabilitate in abordarea acestora. 

Trebuie sa privim in perspectiva. Insa cand un minister face propunerea de a majora cheltuielile intr-un sector anume, acest minister nu priveste in perspectiva, ei gandesc cum si ce ar putea obtine pentru sine, ce ar putea obtine pentru oamenii care vor vota pentru ei. 

I: Faceti cumva referinta la alegerile locale din 25 mai si la interesele personale pe care unele persoane din guvernul actual le au fata de alegeri? 

R: Ma refer la legile de acest gen adoptate de Parlament, nu ma refer la aceasta campania electorala in particular. Economistii au scris articole intregi despre ceea ce se numeste "ciclul electoral" - in SUA, in Europa, in multe tari. Se poate observa ca in preajma alegerilor in 85 la suta din tari din lume se fac presiuni asupra majorarii cheltuielilor. Nu va fi o surpriza, daca acest lucru se va intimpla si in Moldova. 

Pozitia financiara si bugetul pe termen mediu a guvernului - este o parte foarte importanta a viitoarei noastre misiuni. Daca nu vom atinge un acord in aceasta privinta, atunci raportul misiunii nu va fi incheiat.
O multime de decizii costa bani, iar noi va trebui sa evaluam costul lor. Nu putem aproba un program care implica prea multe decizii care la randul lor costa prea mult. 

I: Care sunt aspectele generale ale programului pe termen mediu al guvernului convenit cu Fondul? 

R: Aceste aspecte urmeaza sa le discutam cu guvernul, care examineaza la moment acest program. Se fac niste estimari pe termen mediu... Noi vom discuta acesta.

Si - iarasi accentuez - problema cheie in acest context este respnsabilitatea! Trebuie sa fim responsabili. Trebuie sa privim inainte. Daca eu as fi fost miop si as fi vrut sa arunc o privire asupa anului 2004, atunci ar fi trebuit sa-mi pun ochelarii ca sa vad mai bine ce se va intampla anul viitor.

I: Ce ne puteti spune despre relatiile curente intre FMI si guvernul Moldovei? Premierul Tarlev a declarat ca unele din sugestiile facute FMI-ului parvin de la niste "pseudopatrioti" si "dusmani ai tarii"... 

R: Nu stiu la cine s-a referit primul ministru. Membrii misiunii FMI se intilnesc cu o multime de persoane. Eu vorbesc cu jurnalisti, reprezentanti ai ONG-urilor, ministri si angajati ai ministerelor, consultanti internationali care acorda tarii asistenta tehnica, parlamentari din toate fractiunile, ambasadori si oameni de afaceri. Imi este greu sa spun cine anume sunt acesti "dusmani ai statului". Un lucru va pot spune: noi, ca institutie, avem obligatia sa vorbim cu persoanele care vor sa discute cu noi. De asemenea noi avem o sarcina si o responsabilitate fata de oamenii care traiesc in aceasta tara - sa ne asiguram ca standardele lor de viata sa se imbunatateasca, sa protejam interesele oamenilor. Trebuie sa fim siguri ca tara va avea o crestere economica fara o inflatie prea mare si ca beneficiile unei asemenea cresteri sa fie simtite de cat mai multa lume posibil. 

I: Care sunt actualele relatii ale FMI cu guvern? Sunt oare cei de la putere sinceri si deschisi colaborarii cu Fondul, sau ar fi mai bine sa nu atingem acest subiect? 

R: Ar fi mai bine sa nu discutam acest subiect pentru moment. 

I: Presa a publicat articole in care se spune ca, potrivit Bancii Nationale, arieratele la serviciul datoriei externe continua sa creasca. Puteti confirma si comenta aceasta informatie? 

R: Restantele la serviciul datoriilor externe... Ar trebui sa-i intrebati pe cei de la Banca Nationala referitor la acest subiect. Dupa cum stiti, sunt careva restante la unele hartiile de valoare emise, dar acestea se mentin atare de mult timp, asa ca acest lucru nu este o noutate. 

Au fost publicate cateva articole, in particular BASA-press a difuzat cateva stiri, comunicand ca la inceputul anului curent, Moldova a acumulat noi restante la serviciul datoriei externe. Insa, din cite stiu noi, guvernul are obligatiunea sa nu lase aceste restante sa creasca. 

Noi vom verifica aceast lucru. Toata informatia respectiva pe care o receptionam - de exemplu in unele cazuri o intreprindere sau careva institutii internationale afirma ca guvernul nu se achita cu ei - in asa cazuri noi trebuie sa verificam care este situatia in realitate. Aceasta necesita timp. Asemenea chestiuni sunt verificate pe parcursul misiunilor. Pentru moment, nu va pot spune nimic referitor la aceste restante pina cand nu vom verifica si ne vom convinge suta la suta ca ele exista. 

I: Potrivit Departamentului de Statistica, inflatia in aprilie a fost de 1,5 la suta, insa inflatia cumulativa pentru primele patru luni s-a ridicat la 6,2%. Este Fondul ingrijorat de acest fapt, si ce recomandari va face FMI referitor la indicatorii macroeconomici? 

R: In aprilie inflatia a fost de 1,5 la suta. De fapt in aprilie 2002 ea a fost cu 0.4% mai mare. Inflatia lunara, deci, este destul de mare, insa nu atat de mare ca anul trecut. Ceea ce afirmati in intrebarea Dvs este corect. Inflatia pe primele patru luni a foarte mare, dar noi contam pe o deflatie in lunile de vara. 
In fiecare an, Moldova inregistreaza o deflatie pe parcursul verii - preturile se vor reduce, la fel si inflatia. Dar noi nu putem spune cu cit exact se va reduce.
Ne asteptam acum la o rata a inflatiei de 7 procente la sfarsitul anului, dar ea ar putea oscila intre 6% si 8%, ceea ce nu constituie o diferenta prea mare. 

I: Ce puteti spune despre alti indicatori macroeconomici? 

R: Referitor la PIB, prognozam o crestere de cca 5 la suta sau un pic mai mare. Dar aceste cifre probabil vor fi revazute pe parcursul misiunii ce va veni. De fapt asta si va fi una din functiile misiunii - sa revada aceste pronosticuri de asemenea.

I: Ne puteti spune cand exact va sosi misiunea FMI la Chisinau? 

R: Misiunea ar putea sa-si inceapa vizita la Chisinau de la 5 pana pe 18 iunie. Dar aceste date se pot schimba oricand. Niciodata nu se stie exact. Inainte de misiune vom sustine o conferinta de presa, in cadrul careia vom comunica jurnalistilor mai multe detalii referitor la acest subiect.