Events of the economic year 2008 in assessments, forecasts, suggestions. Selection by Info-Prim Neo

Undoubtedly, the event that marked 2008 and was a big challenge for the economies of the world was and still is the world financial crisis, said [Senior Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Trade Igor Dodon], quoted by Info-Prim Neo. “A number of countries of the region have been seriously affected, but Moldova coped with this challenge. Another challenge was the floods that hit the country last summer and that also was a serious challenge to which the Government reacted promptly. No human casualties were reported, while the families that lost their homes received other homes – none of the affected families is now without a roof,” he said. An economic event of major importance, especially for the real sector of the economy, was the obtaining of the EU’s autonomous trade preferences by Moldova and the diversification of the goods exported to the EU. The construction of large infrastructure facilities such as the Cahul – Giurgiulesti railway line, the signing of contracts with international and European banking financial institutions for the implementation of projects to build roads and modernize the Chisinau International Airport, the signing of a contract with a Czech private company for the construction of a thermal plant of 350 MW in Ungheni can be considered important events of the economic year 2008. Dodon considers that Moldova will face difficulties next year. The demand for Moldovan goods abroad could decrease. Remittances and the foreign direct investment could also diminish. “Teams of professionals from the Government and the National Bank of Moldova prepare sets of measures that will be implemented depending on the development of the events during the first months of the year. For the ordinary people, it is very important that the tariffs on energy resources are not increased this year. We are working with the suppliers in this regard and hope we will be able to insure stability,” Dodon said. Johan Mathisen, Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund in Moldova, considers that the single-digit inflation and the measures taken by the Government and the central bank to curb inflation as well as the measures designed to strengthen the banking sector are the major events of the economic year 2008. He said that these measures protected Moldova from the world financial crisis. At the same time, Mathisen said that in order to obtain the 3.6% economic growth forecast by the IMF for Moldova in 2009 (the World Bank anticipates that the growth will be 4%), it is necessary to reduce the rates of interest on bank loans. “The central bank has taken certain measures in this direction. But in order to develop, the real sector of the economy needs resources, the lending policy must be improved, while the interest rates on bank loans must be decreased. Otherwise, Moldova will not be able to avoid the problems faced by certain countries of the region,” Mathisen said. [Gheorghe Cucu, president of the Chamber of Trade and Industry (CTI)] also considers that the granting of autonomous trade preferences by the EU is the major economic event of 2008. But, in order to fully benefit from the advantages offered by this preferential trade regime and by the free trade regime that could be put at the basis of a new agreement between Moldova and the EU, the economic entities should be multilaterally prepared to take this exam. The CTI president said that the Moldovan goods often lose ground to the goods made by other countries, not necessarily EU members, but also countries of the region. Therefore, the national companies should be offered logistic support to implement international quality standards ISO in their activity and to faster modernize the quality infrastructure and company management. [Simion Platon, president of the CTI Office in Cahul,] said that the continuation of the reform regulating the entrepreneurial activity is an important event, but stressed that this reform, in particular Guillotine 2, is not very felt by the entrepreneurs working in district centers and rural areas. Though the number of control bodies is reduced, they continue to get involved in the operational activity of the companies. Independent analysts enumerate among the economic events of 2008 the granting of autonomous trade preferences by the EU, which, as it is said in a list of the top ten economic events of the year complied by [the analytical center Expert-Grup,] are for Moldova a window to Europe. The preferences allowed increasing wine exports to the EU by 41%. The export of sugar was resumed, but practically all the sugar is exported to Romania. The corn and rice continue to be exported. Among the major events of 2008, Expert-Grup mentions the reduction in the rate of inflation to under 10%. According to analysts, this performance is mainly due to the lower prices of imported goods, especially oil products, but also to the monetary policies implemented by the central bank. The crisis that affects the construction sector is also associated with the reduction in the prices of some of the building materials. At the same time, some of the producers complain that they have been subjected to administrative or psychological pressure so as they reduced the prices of socially important products. “In the run-up to an election campaign that is of major importance not only for the Opposition parties, but also for those that are in power, we should not be surprised by the fact that administrative control instruments are used to keep the prices stable,” Expert-Grup says. At the same time, the analysts remind that for the first time Moldova achieved the major objective of single-digit inflation stipulated in the Memorandum on Economic and Financial of Policies signed by the Government of Moldova and the IMF. As a result, the Government and the National Bank gained more of the IMF’s and other international organizations’ trust. On the other hand, analysts of the [Institute for Development and Social Initiative Viitorul”] consider that the fight against inflation, which is considered a tax on the poor, ended with the shifting of inflation on the shoulders of those that receive remittances from abroad. Experts of IDIS “Viitorul” say that the appreciation of the national currency contributed to a reduction of at least 10 percentage points in inflation. But the reduction in inflation for the whole population was done by increasing the prices for those that receive remittances because the purchase power of the dollar fell by 30%. The second effect that was more dramatic according to IDIS “Viitorul” was the loss of incomes from exports, which negatively affected the economic growth in general.

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