The activity of the Parliament during 12-16 May 2003
21 May 2003
Early this week the OSCE organised a seminar of the issue of federalisation addressed to authorities from Chisinau and Tiraspol. The seminar was to contribute towards the efforts of drafting a new Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. The works of the seminar were held in Chisinau and Tiraspol and were appreciated by most of the participants as a thaw in the negotiation process. Yet, immediately after the conclusion of the seminar, the representatives of Transdnistria to the Constitutional Commission reverted to their old tactics of accusing Chisinau of having refused to co-operate in preparing the draft of the new Constitution. In this sense, it was interesting to observe that the official position of the Ministry of Re-integration added some new elements to it: the current format of talks with the participation of guarantors and the OSCE may not be used to organise the activity of the constitution drafting commission. The latter needs to function outside political talks and focus on the judicial mechanism that is to be incorporated into the supreme law.
On 15 May 2003 the last plenary session of the Parliament before the general local elections took place. A number of legislative acts of special importance have been discussed and adopted at the session.
I. Law on Lease in Agriculture
ADEPT Comment: The law is intended to establish the normative framework for fostering leasing activities in agriculture, determine the objects and subjects of relations in agriculture as well as relevant rights and obligations.
The notion "lease in agriculture" is defined as "possession and use on a contractual basis, against a fee and for an undetermined period, of land lots and other agricultural goods".
In the category "agricultural goods" are included "the unfixed means, agricultural fields, machines, equipment, installations, constructions, platforms and warehouses". It is worth mentioning that this category does not include any more the water pools, which fact will make it impossible in the future to lease lakes and other water accumulation sites by the public administration authorities. Thus, after the terms of earlier contracts of lease of water pools expire, these will only be assigned to use, the right of owning them being excluded from the scope of such accords.
The law provides for compulsory conclusion of written lease contracts, as well as the following bounding terms: - the parties to the contract and their identification data, a detailed description of the object of the contract, the term of lease, the fee for the lease (form, term, place of payment), the rights and obligations of parties, their responsibility; the characteristics of the field, the options of its use and the norms of exploitation, conditions of protection and repeated cultivation etc. Sample lease contracts of lease of agricultural goods will be approved by the Government.
The maximum term of lease has been established at 30 years, although the current law provides for a maximum term of 99 years. As a consequence, in future there might appear conflicts among the subjects who have concluded contracts for the mentioned term and those who will have to revise their contracts and adjust them to the new law.
The law also establishes the ways of concluding contracts of sub-lease of agricultural fields as well as the methods of buying back the leased goods.
The issue of lease in agriculture has been the subject of long and controversial debates, especially in the context of revising the Land Code and "consolidating the agricultural fields", which are said to be aimed at restoring the collective ownership of land and which have failed due to the intervention of the international financial institutions, but also due to the lack of necessary funds in the state budget. According to independent experts, although the law was long expected and promoted, it will not manage to solve most of the current problems, since their root cause lies not in the lack of administrative resources, but rather in the lack of investments, financial resources, fixed and unfixed assets, as well as the inability of the state policy to revive the production process and promote the export of agricultural products.
In addition to these, there is the categorical opposition of those who used to lease agricultural goods under advantageous terms and even illegally and who will now have to undergo changes and take actions of which they do not approve.
II. Law on the Modification and Completion of some Legislative Acts related to the Activity of the Centre for Fighting Economic Crime and Corruption
ADEPT Comment: This law was adopted after long and heated debates. It conferred the Centre a number of additional prerogatives, which are to significantly enhance its position in the system of the Moldovan law enforcement bodies. The adopted changes refer to the following:
- Granting the Centre powers of fiscal administration, including granting the employees of the Centre powers of fiscal officers, which will allow them to calculate and forcefully collect due taxes, as established in the fiscal legislation.
- Granting the Centre powers of fighting money laundering, for which purpose a special sub-division will be set up to substitute the current specialised institution under the general prosecutor's office. The subdivision will deal with the accumulation and preliminary examination of statements that all financial institutions are obliged to make in the event of transactions worth more than the minimum 100,000 (wired-200,000) Moldovan Lei (in the event of physical persons) and 300,000 MDL (in the event of legal persons).
- Granting the Centre the power of undertaking criminal expertise and other expertise, as well as research falling in its competence.
- Establishing additional regulations related to the remuneration of Centre employees. Thus, their monthly wage will include the wage for the position, the wage for the special grade, the increment to the wage for the length of service, for work in special circumstances and "other payments, increments and recompenses established by laws". Apart from this, the employees of the Centre have the right to food rations and equipment, and since these are difficult to secure, they will be given a financial allowance.
Although the quantum of paying the employees has not been officially announced, it is so high that many other public employees are envious of it, as even the monthly remuneration of some technical officers is higher than that of ministers, and, according to some sources, the monthly wage of the leadership of the Centre is considerably higher than that of the Prime Minister and the President of the Parliament.
The debates on this issue are also fuelled by the fact that the activity of the Centre has yielded pretty modest results so far, and the competence of many employees is being questioned, which fact was mentioned even during the discussion of the draft. Nonetheless, the fact that the idea of creating the Centre belongs to the head of state and that the proposed amendments have enjoyed his preliminary approval has yielded the right result - the parliamentary majority adopted the law in the final reading.
III. Law on Exemption from Taxes on Mandates for Receiving the Indexed Deposits with the Bank of Savings
ADEPT Comment: This law has abolished the state tax on the issue of mandates for receiving the indexed deposits with the Bank of Savings. Given that most of the people who have the right to receive their deposits are not physically able to get the necessary papers, it has been decided that they can mandate at local public administration offices, free of charge, other people to get the necessary papers and receive the deposited money.
The Parliament accepted these proposals, although there is a slight likelihood of abuses, and cases of swindle and forceful obtaining of such mandates have already been registered. Also, there are cases when certain people offer their services for a share of the money to be cashed.
In these circumstances, we believe that it would have been much fairer and more secure if the mechanism of cashing in the deposits had been the last stage which could have been performed only by the deponent or by his/her closest relatives.
IV. Law on Amending the Law on the Budget of Social Insurance with Regard to Taxes on Lawyers
ADEPT Comment: The law on the social insurance budget of 2003 bound the licensed lawyers, regardless of the juridical form of organisation, to pay into the budget of social insurance "a monthly tax calculated from the 29% tariff on three minimal wages" (approximately 700 Moldovan Lei per month). The lawyer community vehemently protested against this norm, arguing that they are being discriminated compared with other categories of insured professionals and that this norm is not provided for based on the fact that money is being accumulated. Practically, it provided that every lawyer was to pay over 700 Moldovan Lei into the budget every month, even if he/she had not accumulated the respective sum for the provided services.
According to the amendments made by the Parliament, the lawyers will have to pay a monthly tax of 10% when they make a profit below three average salaries (around 2,500 MDL). When their profit is higher than three average salaries, the lawyers will pay a monthly tax worth 29% as calculated from three salaries (around 700 MDL).
At the same time, it has been established that, depending on the contributions made, the lawyers will have the right to differentiated social services and insurance.
V. Law for the Amendment of the Law on Civil Aviation
ADEPT Comment: According to the proposed amendments, a more precise definition has been given to terms like "air operator", "international airport", "air operator authorisation" etc.
Also, the law includes new language in the provisions on certification and authorisation of air operators, as well as on the authorisation of flights.
The law also provides for the introduction of a new article, which enumerates around 10 actions classified as civil aviation offences.
Notably, the amendments refer directly to the issues related to the activity of the joint air company "Air Moldova" in 2002. That conflict resulted in the exclusion from the company of the foreign partner and the withdrawal of the company's authorisation to carry out flights on the air route Chisinau-Frankfurt. The scandal resulted in the setting up of the State Company "Air Moldova", but also in depriving the passengers flying from Chisinau of the possibility to fly directly to Frankfurt, which is in the heart of Europe and offers immense possibilities of air connections to most of European destinations.