October 7, 1999 -
Mark Horton: Article in FLUX Newspaper
LACK OF A NATIONAL CONSENSUS CONTINUES TO GENERATE MANY PROBLEMS AND DOCTRINAIRE
Horton was born in 1965, in state of Michigan, USA. He had studied at the
University of Colorado, after that worked in a private consultant company in
energetic field. He received the university degree at the University of Harvard.
Immediately after graduation, in 1992, started to work for International
Monetary Fund. He is being married for 9 years and has two children of 5 and 3
a permanent representative of IMF, he worked at the Department for African
countries, in Kenya, than he was transferred to Department II for European
Countries, that deals with former SU countries. He had been working in
Uzbekistan for 18 months, then in Kazakhstan, and during last three years - in
the Republic of Moldova. His next country will be Lithuania.
1985 he started to learn Russian, but as he himself recognised, “it is a big
came with a higher optimism than I am leaving with
Mark Horton, our “Coffee” shall be published on the last day of your stay in
Moldova. How were those three years spent as resident representative of IMF in
Moldova, especially from the point of view of some opportunities
that Moldova had?
is a good question, and during last week I had several occasions to refer to
this aspects. I came to Moldova with a higher optimism than I am leaving with. I
was almost convinced that thinks can faster change to better. For me, Republic
of Moldova seemed to be like Baltic Countries. Even if I have been told, for
several times, that such analogy is not valid for these countries, that the
mentality is so different and things are much more complex and difficult here,
for a long time I refused to accept this idea.
Americans do not believe in the concept of mentalities, they are convinced that
if a mentality is not functional, then it needs to be replaced. It is only now
that I understand what those people really meant. I am not trying to say that I
became more pessimistic, but I have to admit that mentality is an important
issue that needs to be taken into account when talking about the speed and level
of implementation of reforms.
last years, Moldova has been influenced by a set of factors, first of all, the
external ones that play an important role in country’s development. I would
even say that the progress of the Republic is determined by the situation of
factor is lack of national consensus that continues to generate further problems
and doctrinaire misunderstandings that should have already been solved about 6-7
are you concretely referring to?
example, Transnistria. The position of the Government in this aspect is still
unclear. We are lucky that this conflict is a “peaceful” one and does not
constitute a direct danger.
are other situations, for example lack of a clearly defined strategy and a
national consensus makes things to be unstable and less predictable.
example is lack of transparency in promoting the integration policy. Its is
still unclear whether Moldova wants to join Europe or CIS.
can advice Moldova in joining either Europe or CIS?
population has to take such a decision. Maybe it is not that easy now, when we
have a new democracy that is not formatted yet and easy to manipulate, but
still, its the local population that decides its future, and it can be done
through concrete steps. The civil population has to find ways to impose its own
don’t want to be too direct in answering the second part of the question,
important is not my opinion, but the opinion of the people. Still, I think it is
obvious that, on one side, we talk about a modern and stable partner that
represent a good source of investments and on,
the other side, financial and political poverty and instability.
my opinion, Moldova has to join a reunion that will help it to increase the
living standard. It would be much easier if Romania accelerates the process in
this direction, or, maybe, Moldova doesn’t have to wait for it.
insist again that it is the civil society that will think upon this issues and make the politicians join one or
another part. This is how you create the national consensus.
make an assessment of present relationship between Moldova and IMF.
ironic it might seem, but it is the best for the last three years. During this
year, Moldova benefited two credit instalments from the IMF and the results we
got were good by the end of September. In order to analyse this results, a
mission of the IMF shall arrive by the end of October. In my opinion, the
government did the best to fulfil the conditions under the agreement signed with
IMF and, I think, the Parliament supports us too. As a result of negotiation
with the team of the Republic of Moldova held in Washington, representatives of
the IMF, responsible for programs with Moldova, decided to support, under
certain conditions, the increase of budget deficit stipulated in the Law of
Budget for 1999 from 2% to 5%. The major condition for this instalment is to pay
off some of Moldova’s debts to Russia and Romania. This is the subject of
present negotiations between the Republic of Moldova and governments of the
other two countries. If this repayment shall not take place or the Moldovan
government will use this money with other destinations, than IMF will not accept
the increase of budget deficit for 1999. This will certainly make the
negotiation of financing the budget deficit for 2000 more difficult.
have mentioned that you are supported by the Parliament. Could you make a
comparison between the old and present Parliament?
came to Moldova in 1996 and I had been working with the old Parliament for a
year and a half.
I already mentioned, there is more understanding and a better co-ordination
between the actual Parliament and Government. They feel and approach the
problems Moldova faces more realistically. The proportion of conservatory forces
in the actual Parliament is different from the old one and, in the best majority
of cases, the reformatory initiatives have been supported. Unfortunately, the
situation today is worse than it used to be in 1996 and the results of the
efforts can be hardly seen.
strategy of the present Government is more evident and coherent, its members
being very competent and strong persons. For example, the prime-minister does an
are your daily sources of information and how independent do you find the press
informational sources are, first of all, phone conversations
and meetings. We also collect a lot of data about the events that take
place in the republic, I meet representatives of diplomatic communities,
investors and I try to get in touch with simple people in order to find out
their points of view. I read FLUX, Bassa-press, Infotag, “Ekonomiceskoe
obozrenie”, “Logos-press”. Regarding the independent press, it is very
difficult question to answer.
the following question - how do you appreciate the independence of press?
example, I think that your newspaper is quite rowdy, in a good sense of the
word, in such a way it draws attention upon many existing problems of the
society. This is a positive thing and shows a kind of independence of your
newspaper, despite discussions like ”who does FLUX belong to?”. In my
opinion, you are a publication that adds some spices in the local mass-media.
way Americans perceive the independence of press is a bit different than you do.
In USA, mass-media are like “watch dogs” that, as soon as they trace a
problem, force the political powers towards its solving.
Moldova, in many cases, you stop at problem identification stage and on drawing
attention upon it. At the same time I realise that the situation could have been
worse, so I can congratulate you for the possibility to express your opinion.
the press has to focus more upon the social aspect and create debates on
problems of major interest, one of them being the national consensus.
what way the lack of national consensus and irresolution regarding the
integration policy affects the dialogue between the Republic of Moldova and IMF?
IMF this means that promotion of reforms in Moldova is inconsistent. This is
actually the biggest problem. During three years of my stay, there have been
several periods of intensive activity when hundreds of laws have been adopted in
an extremely short period of time in order to satisfy the requirements - June
1997, November - December 1998 and this summer. But this periods alternate with
the passive periods or of political fights. It, implicitly, means that the
economic policy is not always logic and consistent. This is how we see this lack
of consensus that, from time to time, affects the relationship with IMF.
is known that money can corrupt even the politicians. Several months ago you
made some declarations regarding corruption.
Did you also feel the breath of our political sharks at your back?
tried not to make any political declarations touching spicy issues, or giving
concrete names. All I wanted to do is to outline a problem that does not allow
Moldova to develop economically. It might seem strange to you, but my partners
thanked me for treating the problem so openly. The corruption problem
politicises itself really fast, so I think it is good that it has been revealed
by an outsider.
speaking, looking at the rows and roomers around the institution that I
represent in Russia, I am glad I made the declaration at that time. Being donors
of the Republic of Moldova, we should be very receptive to problems of
corruption. We cannot be completely satisfied with our job as long as this
I am satisfied with the way the NBM administrated the funds allotted by IMF.
If I were asked who impressed me most of all from the people I
collaborated with, I would mention Mr. Talmaci. Credits offered to Moldova had a
very concrete purpose - stabilisation of the national currency and diminution of
the inflation rate, and I think we succeeded to achieve the objectives we had
settled at the beginning.
you please refer to concrete cases of corruption that you have met?
is very difficult to treat this subject concretely. Just like everybody else, I
have read the report of the Audit Commission. I have big question marks
regarding programs of credit guarantee and here I especially refer to energetic
sector and relations with energy providers. Another kind of question would be
how did one manage to control and monopolise the economy in such a way as to
make her look unattractive for any foreign and local investments. I don’t know
whether we can call it a form of corruption, but if you remember, in February,
we used the term “interests of a group”. We can say that, in this case, we
have a clear case of interest of a group.
IMF it is important that both corruption and group interests make reforms to
have small impacts.
do you think, against all reasons, is there an international lobby for Moldova?
I do not think anything like that exists. May be I will join or create one
because Moldova needs a lobby. How strange it might sound, but 99.9% of the USA
population did not even here about Moldova. Americans are ignorant, at least
when it comes to geography.
mentioned mentality as a factor that hinders the economic relaunching of
Moldova. Did you mean the soviet type of mentality?
aspect that every newcomer notices is the passiveness of the population in
fighting problems. I don’t mean that the whole society is passive, there are
certain groups that are rather active, for example nomenclature or mafia. This
problem is the result of the soviet period, and, maybe, even of the last 500
I still think that mentality can be changed.
are very well known as a representative of an international body and one that
makes dour affirmations. Have you ever been reprimanded for your affirmations?
Is it a result of personal courage or policy of IMF? Aren’t you afraid of
after such interviews I ask myself why did I say this or that?..
focuses mostly on such problems as governmental transparency that obliges one to
talk about corruption or group interest. Maybe one does not have to be that
open-hearted every time, but, I think, every time he has to adjust his message
to concrete circumstances.
I am very committed to my job, that is why it affects me when some people
declare that eight years of collaboration with financial bodies did not show any
positive results. I did not tell you that my father was a priest and in my
family I have been talked a lot about compassion. This is why it is so difficult
for me to stay aside and not to comment upon some problems.
tried to be careful when making declarations, and, even if they were dour and
maybe too open, I tried not to point out concrete people, but to talk only about
the problem. I am glad that the situation in the
republic allows me to speak out, and I am glad that they didn’t refuse
me the visa.
speaking, I think that there is a good relationship between Moldova and IMF. We
granted a big amount of money that has to be reimbursed and, working here,
you must be open, sincere and ready to defend your institution.
you still support your previous declaration regarding the referendum?
do not want to come back to this subject. I have been “registered” for
making some declarations and there were some concerns in this direction.
there is a tendency in Chisinau to repeat yourself for several times and I do
not want to join this category. In February, when I talked about corruption, for
about two weeks I had been chanted by journalists to talk to them about it. I
used to recommend them to read that specific newspaper.
the situation in which the Republic of Moldova missed the opportunity of shock
therapy in its economy, what would be the fastest way to overcome the crisis,
because, so far, our transition period lasts 10 years?
opinion is that the most important thing is to persuade foreign and local
investors to invest money into the country.
During last several years, a degradation of the infrastructure occurred, a fact
that does not favour investments at all. As a result, a decrease in production
took place, a fact that makes collection of taxes more difficult. Everything
gets worse due to bad administration of political issues, bureaucracy and other
order to attract investments, you have to convince the investors that the
country has a clearly defined policy for next 10-20 years. Here we again tackle
the necessity of a national consensus. As a result, it is easier to talk about
activity of investment attraction than doing it.
we are living in a world of competition. An investment can be done not only in
an unknown country as Moldova is, but also in Romania, Hungary, Poland.
the experience of some family friends that left to USA and managed, in a
relatively short time, to assert themselves by launching
business that could be successful here, makes me feel optimistic about
the perspectives of this people. You
need to adjust some aspects and this region will revive and flourish.
danger might represent the exode of intellectual potentiality from Moldova?
those present here can tell more about this. They all have friends or relatives
that left for Israel, Canada, USA and other countries. What attracts one in
Moldova is a talented and capable population, and cheap labour force. The
average salary in the Republic of Moldova is of 20$ per month. People get angry
and say that they are being exploited when the foreign investors pay them only
40$ per month, but I think it is a better alternative than being unemployed.
Once the productivity will raise, the wages will raise too, not with 2%, but
with 15-20% per annum, as it happened in Baltic countries or in Central Europe.
intellectual potentiality exode represents, of course, a big danger for Moldova.
When the process becomes a general issue, than the
vitality, on the national level, is lost. Almost the whole young
potentiality from the Moldovan villages left for Chisinau, Moscow or Romania, or
even to more far-off countries to find a job.
is a poor country also because of the people that emigrate.
is a problem that needs solving at the governmental level by building up a
sustainable economy and creating good conditions, and, as a consequence, people
wouldn’t leave. This situation, along with many others, determines us to press
the government in promoting a policy that would determine the growth in every
field of activity.
do you appreciate the acute crisis that Moldovan politicians are facing today?
I come again to the idea of national consensus. My answer comes out of that
desideratum. I think that the actual crisis is just a continuation of a set of
previous crisis, and this fact does not allow reaching the national consensus,
thus stopping the development of the country as a whole.
politicians have to ask themselves whether Moldova can afford the luxury of
permanent crisis or maybe it is better to have a stronger and more stable
are Moldova’s chances to pay its external debts and what will be the
consequences of declaring the state insolvent?
is true that Moldova has big external debts. A positive aspect is that Moldova
has only few big creditors, and 90% of debts have non-commercial basis. This
creditors are long term partners of Moldova: IMF, WB, EU, USA government, BERD,
Russian government, “Gasprom”. They proved to have a lot of patience in
dealing with Moldova. As a conclusion the burden of external debts is very
big, but it can be controlled through establishing partnership relations with
the creditors, and in such a case I don’t think that Moldova will ever be
are the strongest impressions of your stay in Moldova?
are things that impressed me profoundly, first of all it was the open-heartiness
and seriousness of local people. Living in Moldova was different than living in
Kazahstan, Uzbekistan and even Romania and Ukraine. I do not refer to material
things, it is about a certain local colour, specific national features that only
an outsider can track them out.
type of open-heartiness and seriousness that I met during my collaboration with
local people, is unique for this part of the world. It reflects a culture that
if bottled, could be successfully marketed, even more successfully than Cricova
champagne. This is what I will always remember.
have been living here for 3 years speaking Russian, and I have never felt well
in this hypostasis. But everybody was so kind and nice to me, that I didn’t
have to learn Romanian. However, I read FLUX, watch “Mesager” in Romanian
and I understand almost everything.
there anything, during your stay in Moldova, that you consider being a success?
feel really well when I think of those interventions I made during my stay, also
mentioned today. I find them constructive and I hope that in this way I have
managed to contribute to better understanding of IMF’s role in Moldova.
would like to think that local people will remember me as a person that tried to
do something, a person that cared about Moldova and its people, a person that
did not try to become rich or get drunken, but had a serious attitude towards
you intend to come back?
made here a lot of good friends, and, even its a road from nowhere to nowhere, I
would like to come back, not tomorrow or on Wednesday, but some time, in order
to see what has changed. One thing is certain, I will follow every event that
takes place here.
will read our “Coffee” only on the aeroplane. What is you message for those
that stay here?
USA, it is usually written on the gravestone: “He tried”. That’s all.