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Activity of the Parliament within the first session
Sergiu Grosu, September 12, 2005
Lawmakers are expected in late September to return from their two months vacation and start the examination of draft laws included in the agenda of the legislature. The priorities of the second session (which is the shortest and lasts less than three months) have not been established until now, though the executive had drafted a four-year activity program and action plans. Also, the Parliament passed a decision last June, obliging the executive to submit on September 1, 2005 a list of legislative documents which will be drafted in order to implement the governing program and national strategies on key sectors, aiming at brining in accordance the national legislation to community acquis. It is not clear yet whether the executive has fulfilled the task, nor whether envisaged list of legislative documents has been developed and lawmakers agenda.
One may only engage in suppositions on the agenda of the next session, however what really is feasible is to review the previous session of the legislators elected on March 6, 2005 elections when they adopted more than 200 legislative documents.
Political and organizational problems
The great majority of spring-summer session focused on political issues and settlement of organizational aspects of Parliament activity. Thus, several sessions in a row focused on election of the Parliament's administration, members of the permanent bureau, parliamentary factions and commissions. Also, the lawmakers debated more than once the membership of parliamentary delegations, with representatives of different factions expressing contradictory preferences on cooperation at international and inter-parliamentary levels. Two sessions of the Parliament focused on election and, respectively, investiture of the President, another session was dedicated to introduction of the candidate to the Prime-Minister seat and confidence vote to the Government. Almost an entire session focused on appointment of the Supreme Court of Justice head, while another session was used to name judges and deputy chairmen of the Supreme Court of Justice (and only one of them was finally appointed). Another session was used to hear the annual report of the Human Rights Center, a hearing when Parliamentary opposition voiced harsh criticism. Statements and appeals on different topics of interior and foreign policies represented a separate issue. Also, the Parliament examined separately the Law on Basic Provisions of the Status of the Left Bank of Dniester river.
Parliamentarians paid a special attention to several key sectors, as follows:
Economy, budget and finances
The Parliament adopted a set of amendments shaping the fiscal policy for 2006, establishing a small reduction of the income tax, with introduction or simultaneous rise of the value-added tax for agriculture. On the one hand, tax-payers salute the reduction of income tax as it may increase the taxable base, reduce the shadow economy, but on the other hand it may pose some problems in filling the state coffers. Respectively, the rise of VAT in agriculture sector will result in higher prices on agricultural products, price-hike also propelled further upwards by the briskly raising oil prices.
Representatives of the Government appreciate the amendments made to the state budget for 2005 as the first success of this kind in the past ten years, but a closer look at the expenditures envisaged by the amendments shows sings of increased spending, investments in expensive repairs and reconstructions of administrative, social-cultural, entertainment units. Also, budgetary financial investments are almost absent in important economic and social sectors [creation of new enterprises, construction of housing, crediting youth, building educational and sport institutions, etc].
The amendments to laws which regulate the activity of investment funds aim at bringing more transparency and new guarantees for shareholders. On the other hand the parliamentary opposition viewed them as an attempt to redistribute property and to close up societies which are not of interest to the governors, without ensuring a full protection to investors and shareholders.
The new law on leasing was described as an outstanding success, but it gathered a rich harvest of criticism and the President did not promulgate it at the very beginning. It is very hard to estimate the effects of the new regulation since they are almost absent.
Reformation of some institutions
Under agreements on political partnership, lawmakers dedicated a great deal of time to the elaboration and adoption of a set of laws on reforming some institutions and their accountability to opposition. (For further details please see the commentary on this package of legislative documents published in the July 4-29, 2005 e-journal # 55, 3rd year)
Education and science
Lawmakers modified the education law in an attempt to bring it in accordance with the process of integration in the community area (Bologna Process). Also, the deadline set for private educational institutions to comply with legal requirements [increase of statutory fund, own premises, adequate technical and didactic endowment, etc.] was extended for one year.
The list of professions and specialties taught by higher education institutions was adopted through a distinct law. Representatives of the parliamentary opposition criticized some of the provisions [but without any result], proposing to grant the right to education in medicine sector to private educational institutions as well, since this is an internationally recognized practice.
As for science, the Parliament outlined the strategic directions of activity in the area of science and innovation till 2010 and adopted a Law on Botanical Gardens, whose adoption was preceded by a scandal related to inadequate management of the Chisinau municipality Botanical Garden.
Agriculture and related sectors
Lawmakers adopted after repeated debates a Law on Organic Agricultural Products, whose initial provisions were harshly criticized by the academic and scientific environment. Later, the draft proposed by executive was modified, however large financial resources will be needed for implementation of the law and the budget did not provide for them yet.
Transmission and use of land fields and real estate
The Parliament adopted several legislative documents on statute of state-controlled land fields and real estate:
- Transmission of a building in the town of Vatra to the Justice Ministry for urgent sale, in an attempt to recover the losses of depositors of the Intercapital concern (Law # 197/XVI).
- Inclusion of a block and adjacent plot located in the territory of the governmental pension in the village of Holercani, the Dubasari district, in the privatization program (Law # 198-XVI).
- Withdrawal of 15 hectares of higher quality land from the agricultural circuit and the further sale of 12 hectares and building of some objectives which will be part of the Wine City enterprise on about 3 hectares (Law # 184-XVI).
- Exemption of incomes raised by individuals from sale of agricultural fields from taxes with the purpose to transmit them to the railway company of Moldova, in order to restore the Revaca-Cainari segment (Law # 73-XVI), and others.
Whenever those initiatives were on the Government's agenda, they triggered a storm of criticism from the parliamentary opposition, who accused the authorities of inefficient management of public resources and attempts to surreptitiously sell the state patrimony.
Finally, one may conclude that the key component of the activity of legislature - lawmaking - had to suffer; great many of the laws examined were mainly political, organisational and formal documents. The conclusion is also based on the fact that out of a total of 100 adopted laws:
- more than 20 laws envisage the ratification of some international treaties or adhesion to international organisations (formal documents);
- more than 50 laws are on amending and completing some previous legislative documents (the principle of stability of legislation being affected in continuation);
- less than 10 laws are framework laws aimed at establishing new juridical relations on areas of social life.
Decisions on settlement of political and organizational problems related to activity of the governmental branches represented more than half of the total number of adopted documents.
Supposedly, the autumn-winter session will be more productive, the following laws will be high on legislators' agenda:
- Law on State Budget for 2006;
- Law on Salaries and Indemnities for dignitaries and other employees in budgetary sector;
- modification of the Law on Local Public Administration and Law on Prosecutor's Office (which remained from the package of reforms solicited by PPCD), etc.
Also, lawmakers did not start yet the examination of the new Law on the Status of Chisinau Municipality, new Law on the Status of Public Officials and evaluation of their performances, Law on Central Public Administration, new Law on Cults and Law on Political Parties, etc. The public debate (promised by the President) on draft Education Code must start soon (only the draft law on higher education was published by press). The way those document would be developed and put forward for public debates would enable us to judge on the governors' openness and commitment to reform.