IBNA Special Report
Skopje, June 25, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Naser Pajaziti
Government in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has introduced a package of measures for the payment of the arrears of people in need.
These measures were also warned during the electoral campaign and in the second meeting of the cabinet, the government approved the payment of arrears for utility bills, bank loans and other debts owed to the state.
These measures have been welcomed by social categories, but they have sparked debates as they are considered to be populist and neglected the middle class, which survives on monthly salaries, due to the expensive cost of living.
People in need welcome the social package
Citizens believe that in order to pay all monthly bills, a minimum of 500 Euro salary is needed. “It’s a problem to survive on a 200 or 300 Euro salary in the country. Prices continue to grow, while there’s a symbolic increase of wages or there’s no increase at all. I receive a 320 Euro salary a month. A significant part of it goes for food, the rest for utility bills and the remaining part on other needs. In many cases, we are left with nothing else and it’s difficult to afford the month”, says Bashkim Isufi, civil servant.
But, Erdin Memedovski, a member of the Roma community, who is unemployed, told IBNA that the government project for the payment of arrears is welcomed.
“We’re very happy that at last, the state is taking care of us. My power supply service was cut out a few months ago, because I could not pay accumulated bills, but now that the government is doing it, I hope that I will have power supply back on. Before the elections, I was promised that this would be done and now I can see that this promise is being delivered”, says Erdin from the Suto Orizare quarter in Skopje.
The middle class also wants to benefit from these measures, as the salary is not sufficient to afford the high cost of living and accumulated debts.
Milena Dimitrievska, a professor in a high school in Skopje, told IBNA that the government must also provide a package of measures for the middle class living on average and low incomes and who cannot face the financial and economic crisis due to the increasing cost of living. “The government must do something for us, because it’s difficult to afford all the costs and utility bills”, says Milena.
Economists: These are populist measures
Economists say that the measures taken by the government are not economic measures, but populist measures. Abdulmenaf Bexheti, economy professor at the University of Southeastern Europe in Tetovo told IBNA that the measures are populist and they are exploited by the government for political gains and this category of people will be a target group for the next elections.
“This doesn’t consist on an economic measure, but a social one, which makes the country a socialist economy. This measure neglects other categories of citizens who do not benefit social allowances, but who struggle to survive in our environment which is constantly subject to increasing costs of life. If we look at the statistics, we will see that we’re last among Balkan countries as far increases in salaries are concerned”, says Bexheti.
According to him, policies to offer subsidies for people in need are not in the spirit of a right wing government, like the government of prime minister Nikola Gruevski claims.
Gruevski: We’re delivering our promise, we’re helping the citizens
Prime minister Nikola Gruevski says that with this package of social measures, the government delivers its electoral promise.
“Based on the Constitution, Macedonia, as a social state, has the duty of helping people in need. This measure will be a one off measure and it comes as a response of the state in tackling the European and global economic crisis”, declared prime minister Gruevski.
The measures will include people on social benefits, those who have been looking for a job for more than 12 months and people exposed to social risks due to the death of the partner in the marriage or disability.
The social package includes the payment of utility bills and debts that citizens owe to banks, but these debts are also classified.
The government says that this measure will apply to arrears until the end of 2013. /ibna/