Infrastructure, education and the law are the three pillars on which the Government's work will focus in 2018. In an exclusive interview with Publika TV, Prime Minister Pavel Filip spoke about the executive's priorities and the balance sheet for 2017.
- Thank you very much for accepting this interview. The government reform was the principle event of 2017, how do you assess the impact of these changes both on the administration of state affairs and on citizens?
In my opinion, this is a fundamental reform that will bring to the development of the state. Because we considered lots of problems of Moldova were caused by the weak state institutions. A strong state means strong institutions, a weak institution in a state means its ignorance about the problems in the country.
Therefore, this reform of central public administration needs to be seen in larger angles. It was not a simple reform and is not yet done. We first started the process of reforming the State Chancellery because this structure has to be in the center of the Government.
We hesitated a bit because we want to be convinced that we have necessary capabilities to implement this reform. Thus, the Reform Implementation Center was created where more experts have been employed with the necessary capabilities. Only after this we started to carry out the reform.
It was not simple, because any institutional reform also provides resistance from interior, because all those who have learned to work in a system do not want to change this system, but we have succeeded. In the second stage, we changed the structure of the Government. We reduced 16 ministries to 9 ministries. This was a very important one, because each separate field deserves special attention. Now each area has a responsible State Secretary.
The competition for selecting these officials was absolutely transparent and objective, even if it took a long time, but it was worthwhile to identify professional people for each field.
The reform did not stop here, because at the last stage we wanted a depoliticisation of the state institutions and that was the case. Taking into account that 2018 is an electoral year, we want the Government to have the opportunity to deal directly with the executive's affairs.
There are still some important things that are covered by this reform: the Public Services Agency was created, which means that all the services provided by different institutions to the citizens are now granted by a single institution at a single window. This is very important for the convenience of citizens.
Another important element is the removal subordination of ministers to economic enterprises, enterprises with majority or partial state capital so that heads of ministries no longer have the temptation to deal with the economic activity of these enterprises or to intervene in their activity.
This will be handled by the Public Property Agency, which is directly subordinated to the Government. All these aspects come to fortify state institutions, or to create a strong foundation, because when you want to build a good, healthy home, you have to have a strong foundation. From now on, I have all the certainty that things will change in the Republic of Moldova. "
- You and the leadership of the party you represent have stated on several occasions that the work of ministers will be evaluated. We are now witnessing the reshuffle. I want to ask you how these decisions have been taken regarding the dismissal of certain ministers, as there are voices saying that these things are only populism?
"If we take into account the needs and the problems that citizens have to face, it is called populism, then I accept this. I want to open a bracket, because it is not about a minister's evaluation, it is a complex evaluation of the institutions or the institution that is headed by a minister. We have been set up from the very beginning to be close to people. This assessment needs to be viewed much more widely - is this correspondence in the work of an institution dealing with people's problems or not?
Every time you have a new structure, new people must come, because, starting from management theory, this must happen as we risk to preserve old things. Good things were done, as assessment is not just about people, but institutions that have been led by these people. Further evaluations will be made for efficiency. Our goal is not just to see what a person's activity is, but what is the correspondence of this activity with what society demands. "
- Another reform announced in 2017 targets control institutions. I want to ask you, to what extent are the economic actors already feel the impact of this reform and what restructuring will follow in 2018?
"This regulatory reform is only a small step in the line taken by the Government to improve the business environment, to increase the investment attractiveness of the Republic of Moldova. I am aware of the problems that the business environment faces not only from the audience but not from the office.
The business environment, economic activity is the foundation or opportunity of the Government to make social and public investments, because they are the ones who work, they are the ones who offer jobs, they are the ones who pay taxes to the state and then the government has the financial capacity to do.
Therefore, one of the changes was this regulatory reform, because there was this problem of continued pressure from the institutions with control functions on businessmen and not always these controls were transparent. That's why I worked very hard. You remember that from the very beginning we instituted a moratorium on three-month checks. Unfortunately, in three months, we have not been able to draft a new law, this moratorium has been extended for three months, and today we have already made a reform. Of the 58 institutions with control functions, there are only 13 and five national regulators. I think we have achieved the objective of this reform, and the controls are transparent. Businessmen are not afraid of controls. They want these checks to be objective. "
- Another question concerns the reform of the local public administration, which was previously announced. How and when will this reform be implemented?
"The local public administration is also going to be a fundamental reform, but I said that our approach was rational and we try to pursue some logic. I spoke first about the central public administration reform, about the government reform. In order to implement the reform of the local public administration we must have a strong central public administration.
During all these years I have heard many statements and many discussions about the local public administration reform, and from my point of view there are those who just like to make statements.
We have another approach, absolutely pragmatic, even if we were to talk about the centralization process. There must be financial capacity at local level to have decentralization and real autonomy.
Today we have to admit, it is not good but there is no such financial capacity. Then we can have a model - we have a decentralization, there is a local autonomy, but all these things have to be funded by the center. So we can not examine things separately. That is why there must be a logic in all this sense. A strong central public administration that provides economic development and financial capacity.
There is a lot of work to do. There is also a national commission for public administration reform. We are talking in parallel with some models of territorial administrative reform. For now, we are discussing this platform. After that, of course, we will have public consultations and debates. The truth is that in Moldova, starting from the population and the size of the territory, 900 mayors are too many. It means we have neither the administrative nor the financial capacity. Here are the dates of the problem to be solved. Just, as I was saying, the approach is pragmatic, and from my point of view. An administrative-territorial reform must be prepared for longer.
It can not be prepared overnight and immediately implemented, because if you prepare insufficiently, its implementation will take decades. We better prepare it for a few years and then quickly implement it because what does territorial administrative reform mean? First of all, it has to offer more comfort to the people who live in the territory, or in Moldova there was a precedent when we passed to the counties, and then came back to the old structure. Why has this happened? Because this reform needs to be better prepared. First, let's see how we want the architecture of Moldova, and then prepare the infrastructure of public transport and roads. Let's prepare to offer public services close to the citizen. Let's prepare for access to schools and kindergartens, access to health care facilities so that the citizen can have good life.
- Finally, if you can give us some examples of priority projects that will be implemented in 2018?
"First of all, the most important thing in 2018 will be to consider the problems and needs that citizens face in order to act and solve them.
If we were to talk about priorities, I would identify some of them. First of all, the development of the road infrastructure. We have allocated the budget but we also have the fund offered by external partners, over 2.4 billion lei will be invested in the repair and development of road infrastructure.
Another priority topic remains the education field. We will try with colleagues from the Ministry of Education to have an evaluation of everything that happens in the education system in the Republic of Moldova and to improve things.
And, of course, another priority is justice. We will continue the reforms in the judiciary so that in the end we can talk about a true rule of law in the Republic of Moldova. From my point of view, these are three pillars on which a strong state can be built: infrastructure, education, and the rule of law.
Beyond that, we will implement the First House program, a program that is primarily targeted at young people. This project is important because it can become the factor which encourage the young people to go back to Moldova or remain in the country. We will carry out First House 2 program in 2018 which identifies categories of people who want have more facilities when buying a house.
Meal tickets will be our priorities as well.
- Thank you very much for your answers.
On this occasion, I want to wish everybody new year will better results, success and gain more confidence and hopes. Happy New Year.