Thursday, May 30, 2024

What do the radical reforms we need, look like?

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr.

After the European Commission published its progress report, hopes were glowing that Northern Macedonia was moving in the right direction and the start of negotiations seemed only a technical issue to be resolved in October this year. Citizens and other actors of socio-political life are with all their rights waiting for this date, because in practice this means the beginning of the end of the political-economic transition that our state has not been able to complete for over 30 years. Throughout this time, the subject of political rhetoric has been the word REFORM. We have greeted and followed various governing parties, ministers, MPs, parties and leaders who have risen and fallen with the word reform, and even today, it exerts power on the political scene. But, what do we mean by reform?

The reform in political aspect means to improve or change something that is not functioning properly within the governing political system. And, at first glance it seems quite simple, even, very easy if we are to rely on the declarative commitment of politicians, especially during election campaigns. But in essence, reforms are very serious ventures that require a lot of analysis, consistency and long-term strategies to ensure their sustainability. Above all, genuine reforms require sincere political will, courage, and a willingness to short term sacrifice of individual political careers.

Government after government, Northern Macedonia has undertaken reforms in various spheres of the governing political system. However, their results did not satisfy the expectations of the citizens because they were superficial in the best cases and populist in their majority. Despite the current approach, we need radical reforms that go deep into the governance system and permanently eradicate the roots of the systemic problems that decay this system.

How would the radical reforms we so desperately need, look like? Here are some examples without much specific detail.

1. Public Administration – Almost unanimously, we all agree that our public administration is inefficient and ineffective. According to many conducted analysis 30% of public administration is excessive and a large number is without proper qualification. This makes it inefficient and ineffective. How could than radical reforms in the public administration look like?

In order to reduce the excessive number of administrators, there should be early retirement of any public servant who is older than 55 years, offering them 50% of their salary along with the opportunity to be employed in the private sector, without losing their right to receive compensation. This all, to be followed by the re-election of administrators through professional testing for their jobs and anyone who fails the test to stop their contract terminated t’i ndërpritet kontrata.

Reassessment of the work of agencies, committees, enterprises and all public bodies by eliminating those we do not need and unifying those with similar services, functions or competencies. Macedonia is a microstate and does not need such a big government, but it desperately needs good governance.

2. Complete fiscal and administrative decentralization – Since the beginning of this reform in 2005 until today, only two steps forward and three steps backward are being taken. Especially with the last year’s tendency of the previous government to centralize as much power as possible, especially the fiscal one. The units of local self-government are the bodies that are closest to the citizens and they know best about their real day-to-day problems. Lack of financial resources often makes them impotent and leaves them unable to address, in most cases, the vital problems that taxpayers face. How could radical reforms in power decentralization, look like?

Central government, using a proportional formula according to the number of inhabitants and the size of the territory, shares 4.5% of the VAT collected from the previous year for each municipality on a monthly basis. These means are vital to the functioning of municipalities, especially rural ones. This percentage should not only reach 7.5% as originally foreseen, but it should be doubled. In my analysis of capital investments in the municipality of Gostivar, since the beginning of decentralization in 2005, capital and total investments have increased more than 10 times, thus improving the standard of living for the citizens of this municipality. The central government should be maximally decentralized in fiscal aspect and in the right proportion to delegate administrative competencies as well, monitoring the work of the local government and ensuring that funds are spent properly, ie not misused. The role of central government should focus on economic development policies, national and regional infrastructure, energy, internal and external security and provide perspective on supranational institutions.

Here I throw some of the radical reforms without further elaboration:

– Doubling the salaries of doctors, the ones that are corrupted should be sacked and their work licenses should be taken.

– Doubling employees’ salaries in education and they should pass a re-election from the beginning through a comprehensive test of their professional preparation.

– Election of the Chief of Police by direct voting by the citizens and increase of his / her powers and responsibilities.

– Judges and prosecutors with full and independent vetting from political parties according to the model in Albania.

– An uncompromising battle against tax evasion and money laundering, by initially excluding the corrupted inspectors.

Northern Macedonia is just like a block of flats in the New York metropolis, and it is idiotic that such a small state, full of natural wealth, with a favorable geo-political position and with the support of the world’s most powerful democracies, fails to pass its worst self and bring about the long-awaited change for its citizens. In theory and in pre-election promises this is very easy, while reforms, however radical and painful they may be, they could be done, but, how to disrupt the comfort of privileges brought by power and quick enrichment, easy and unpunished through the help of politics?! Therefore, the most radical reform has been, is and will remain the reform of the mentality and practice of political parties, namely the personal and professional integrity of those who have seized the power of transition. And how can that reform look like?!

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