on the organization of the debate “What do farmers want? What does Government
want or does not want?” Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”
Held on 21 December 2020, Debate No.164 brought together: ex-minister of agriculture Vasile Bumacov, former ambassador of Moldova to Japan, Viorel Chivriga, expert in economic policies of the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives “Viitorul” and Igor Boțan, IPN project’s standing expert.
Farmers’ protests attracted a lot of attention and deserve to be analyzed more thoroughly as such and also as a component part of the protest movement in the Republic of Moldova. The effect of the protests and the protests as a phenomenon were discussed by experts invited to IPN’s public debate “What do farmers want? What does Government want or does not want?”.
Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said the farmers protest and the driving force of these protests is the National Farmers Federation of the Republic of Moldova as they have at least one program that explains why they protest and what exactly they want. This is very important. The farmers’ view on the created situation starts from the force the famers represent in Moldova – agriculture, which, together with the processing industry and the food industry, represents one third of the country’s economy and which is the most important sector. This derives from the turnover, the revenues the state earns from farming and the processing industry and the number of people who work there. “This major economic force found itself in a difficult situation owing to the elements of the 2020 agricultural year: severe drought, frosts in spring and then hail. The farmers who grow second-group grain crops consider they sustained losses of 80% to 100% and their demands are thus absolutely legitimate,” stated Igor Boțan
According to him, the protests mounted by the farmers are staged in accordance with the law on assembly and are fully legal and legitimate. The farmers consider that when they started the protests, in the first decade of August, and then in October, they were treated inappropriately by the police that tried to frighten them so as to stop the protests, but this mobilized them further. The decision to raise the VAT rate in agriculture from 8% to 12% was the last drop.
Igor Boțan noted the Moldovans protest when there are particular social phenomena and when they react to particular political-legislative proposals, like the protest mounted at the start of 2000 by the Christian Democratic People’s People, when the Party of Communists tried to amend the legislation on language, history, etc. A new stage of protests came when the European integration course was reoriented to the Eurasian course and ended with the uprising of April 7, 2009, which was probably the most violent protest in the country. The revolution of 2015-2016 related to the ‘billion theft’ followed. Now the farmers protest and they have reasons to protest as about 80% of them risk going bankrupt if they are not helped by the state. This would be an unprecedented blow to the whole country.
Viorel Chivriga, expert in economic policies of the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives “Viitorul”, said the farmers demand what they deserve, first of all maximum attention in a difficult year. The lack of attention in the course of this year has generated difficulties to famers and the authorities. The protests mounted now surely affect the situation in the country. The state institutions and the MPs showed lack of predictability, which seriously affects the national business climate. A law with economic aspects should be discussed, while the lack of stability at legislative level surprises the farmers and the entrepreneurs and affects economic activity. It was normal for the introduction of the VAT rate of 12% to have been discussed with farmers.
According to the expert, the introduction of the VAT rate is a proposal with a fiscal impact that will affect a large part of the farmers as they are not all taxpayers. Many of the farmers do not own the land they cultivate. There are farmsteads that own about 25% of the farmland they cultivate. Therefore, a part of the farmers will be affected, while another part will not be. The bad side is that such a law wasn’t consulted and was adopted tacitly without taking into account the consequences.
Viorel Chivriga doesn’t think that Moldova can provide subsidies like the European states as its economy is less developed. But the farmers should be definitely helped to enter the agricultural year 2021 with minimum losses. The protesting farmers are supported by segments of the population who were affected not less than the farmers. In the current conditions, the farmers can be allowed to repay the rates on bank loans later as those who do not have land must finish the agricultural year by paying to those from whom they rent land.
Ex-minister of agriculture Vasile Bumacov, former ambassador of Moldova to Japan, said agriculture is more than a business. It is also the culture, tradition and history of Moldova and represents the country abroad. That’s why agriculture cannot be treated as any other industry. In Moldova, the authorities didn’t appropriately react to farmers’ protests and demands. Besides the most serious problems faced by farmers, the country is isolated and this is serious. Moldova cannot provide subsidies equal in size to the European ones, but the country should not be isolated. The national political regime that leads to nowhere is a tragedy and the farmers felt this.
According to him, agriculture should be oriented to export, while the bad relations with the neighbors do not favor this. The biggest problem of the farmers is the access to market, to export, apart from the access to finances, which depends on the authorities. “The relations with Romania, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are bad. Such a behavior of the authorities make the country follow a wrong path. The authorities ignore farmers’ demands and this is bad as more than one third of the economy depends on agriculture. In this regard, the economic demands of the farmers are important, but the political demands are even more important,” stated Vasile Bumacov.
The Agency published 4 news stories on the debate (see the English version of www.ipn.md): on 21.12.20, „ What do farmers want? What does government want or does not want? IPN debate” - https://www.ipn.md/en/what-do-farmers-want-what-does-government-want-or-does-8004_1078542.html; „Vasile Bumacov about authorities’ attitude to farmers’ protests” - https://www.ipn.md/en/vasile-bumacov-about-authorities-attitude-to-farmers-protests-8004_1078544.html; „Igor Boțan: If agriculture is destroyed as sector of economy, Moldova will be in deplorable state” - https://www.ipn.md/en/igor-botan-if-agriculture-is-destroyed-as-sector-of-economy-8004_1078547.html; „Viorel Chivriga: Many people were affected in 2020 and this mobilizes whole country” - https://www.ipn.md/en/viorel-chivriga-many-people-were-affected-in-2020-and-this-8004_1078548.html.
Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN