Since the announcement made in November 2019 by Prime Minister Ion Chicu, after his first visit to Moscow, about the Kremlin’s readiness to give our country a credit of 500 million dollars, which turned into 300 million in December, civil society has been alarmed. Experts pointed out that the credit line granted by Russia is aimed at influencing or even controlling domestic political processes and the vulnerability of the Moldovan state. Moreover, it is no coincidence that Russia has agreed to credit Moldova with 300 million dollars for the development of infrastructure projects in 2020, an election year for our country. The start of such projects will allow head of state Igor Dodon to consolidate his political capital, and his population among Moldovans will increase considerably, due to the fact that it has improved their standard of living. Analyst Nicolae Negru warned that this line of credit “can only be a propaganda movement”. According to him, this loan must be looked at very pragmatically and carefully, in order to be a loan and not a way of interference in the internal situation of the Republic of Moldova and to be paid by future generations. Moreover, Negru claimed that Russia only gives money for political and geopolitical purposes. The analyst’s opinion was also supported by the expert Igor Boțan who claimed that “Russia has everything in Moldova everything it needs, it has Transnistria, it has the Orthodox Church, it has television channels, media holding companies”, but this money could be offered in the context of the elections.
Offering this loan is primarily a win for Russia because the Republic of Moldova will return the loan with interest, and the Kremlin thus strengthens its chances of having a pro-Russian president for another four-year term. In February, Prime Minister Ion Chicu avoided detailing the $300 million loan the Government wants to take from the Russians. If President Igor Dodon said that the money could reach the Republic of Moldova either at the end of February or at the beginning of March, the Prime Minister was reserved in statements. The prime minister had said at the time that the authorities were still negotiating the terms of the loan and talked about a “sovereign loan.” “Sovereign credit means that we receive the money in the country’s budget and we use it without additional conditions, I confirm the legislation of the Republic of Moldova. For this, competitions have already been launched for road construction and at the end of these competitions we will designate the winners,” said Chicu.
A month later, on March 13, the cabinet of ministers approved the start of negotiations with Russia for a loan of 200 million euros to the Republic of Moldova. The decision was taken at a government meeting about which the press was notified. After the meeting, the prime minister said the first tranche of the loan from the Russians would come in early April. “This is 200 million EUR, during 2020. Interest rate – 2%, term – 11 years, grace period – one year”, specified the head of the Government. The executive empowered the Moldovan Ambassador to Moscow, Andrei Negută, to sign the credit agreement. Earlier, the Prime Minister had announced that about 250 km of road, including part of the belt of Chisinau, would be repaired from this money.
However, the transport sector, both in the Republic of Moldova and in Russia, is extremely corrupt, which increases the risks that both Russian and Moldovan officials involved in the credit line will develop numerous schemes for the fraud of financial resources. Builders often apply surcharges for the materials used and replace them with poor quality materials, and that’s if the infrastructure project ends up being carried out and not abandoned at half a track, as has happened before. That’s how we’re going to end up with the same poor-quality roads that will require permanent repairs. The involvement of Russian specialists and workers in projects financed by the Russian Federation is not at all a good news. And this would not be a first for our country, which according to the Global Competitiveness Report for 2019 ranks 129th out of 141 countries in terms of road quality. Moldova has now only 2.6 points out of 7 possible. In the same top, the Russian Federation is in 99th place, with 3.5 points out of 7 possible. (http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2019.pdf) Moldova has demonstrated several times that it is vulnerable to corruption. A crass example is what happened in April 2017 when Anti-Corruption Prosecutors and officers of the National Anti-Corruption Center raided the home of several Ministry of Transport officials and representatives of companies. Transport Minister Iurie Chirinciuc, acting Director General of the State Road Administration Veaceslav Teleman and two businessmen were detained. According to the prosecution materials, the then Minister of Transport and Road Infrastructure, in collusion with the other three detained people, put pressure on a company winning tenders financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to force it to cede part of the workload to affiliated economic agents. In the period 2016-2017, Chirinciuc and Teleman created impediments for the winning economic agent by not approving acts for the execution of the works, by delaying approvals from MTID and ASD, as well as by ordering him to conclude subcontracts with firms close to the officials. In May 2019, Iurie Chirinciuc ended up with three and a half years in prison.. The sentence was handed down by the magistrates of the Chisinau Court of Appeal after the first court dictated to the former minister a milder sentence: one year and four months of suspended prison.
However, in December 2019, the former Transport Minister escaped prison following a Supreme Court decision that sentenced him to one year and four months suspended. As far as we can tell, the schemes remain the same, only people changes.
Under these conditions, without strict supervision, infrastructure projects will bring money to Moldovan and Russian businessmen, leaving the Moldovan society, which will have to return the loan, with non-existent or equally poor quality roads. Moreover, Moldovan workers will not benefit from these projects either because the country’s president Igor Dodon has announced that he intends to train in the repair work migrant workers. If Russia really wants to support the Republic of Moldova, which is unlikely, it should nevertheless focus on deterring corruption, increasing financial stability and administrative governance. It is just that these measures would make the Republic of Moldova a stable and strong country, which Russia does not want. And if we look at things more deeply, by accepting this loan, the Republic of Moldova risks losing its identity and even its sovereignty. Our state will become much more indebted and closely linked to the Kremlin, and the increase in debt to Russia will limit the politicians in Chisinau in actions, and the country will be even less free and independent. Our country’s former ambassador to Moscow, political analyst Anatol Tăranu, said in a commentary for radio Europa Libera that what he really needs to worry about is not credit, but the price, demanded by Moscow in return. “Russians never give money simply, for the sake of reforms in the Republic of Moldova. The conditions are very harsh and geopolitical: either you enter the Line up of the Russians and become subservient, become a factor of Russian politics, or you don’t enjoy these favors. Andthen, this economic relationship with the Russiansis veryharmful, through these geopolitical conditions, because the economic relationship with the Russians means subservient. And those who bind us through such relationships pass on this heavy burden to the next governments. Even if they’re going to be more pro-Russian, but they’re going to have to pay the policies for these disposals that Dodon and his team are now making. It’s a very serious matter,” says Anatol Tăranu.
If it wants to prevent dependence on the Kremlin, the Republic of Moldova should learn the lesson of a state controlled by the Russian government through economic pressures and which has lost its sovereignty for several years, Belarus. Will the Chisinau authorities understand that they can also learn from the mistakes of other countries or continue to step on the same rake?