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News 23 Sep 17

BIRN Database Shows Macedonia Mayors Failed to Deliver

Macedonia's mayors delivered less than half the capital projects they promised during their four years in office, a new BIRN database published ahead of the October 15 local elections shows.

Skopje. Photo: Aerodrom municipality

The mayors of Macedonia's 80 municipalities, plus the capital, Skopje, over the last four years delivered less than half the capital projects they promised, a new BIRN database, "Municipalities Uncovered," shows.

The database analyzes the municipal budgets for capital investments as well as their overall budgets from 2013 to 2016.

It shows that over the four-year period, the mayors pledged to spend a total of 762 million euros on such projects but actually invested less than half of that – 336 million euros. This was 46.7 per cent of the initially planned sum for new infrastructure.

The rest of the planned investments in roads, waterways, sewers, hospitals, parks and other items that mayors promised to deliver during the 2013 local elections remained on paper.

Not surprisingly, the capital city of Skopje was the biggest investor by far, spending 73.5 million euros, followed by the Skopje municipality of Centar, with 22.6 million euros.

The town of Bitola came next with 14.2 million euros, the Skopje municipality of Karposh came fourth with 12.8 million euros and the town of Strumica came fifth with 12.1 million euros.

But since the big urban municipalities have much bigger budgets than smaller rural areas, a clearer picture of the mayors' successes is revealed by calculating municipal investments on a per capita basis.

This puts the southern rural municipality of Novaci in top place. It spent 1,170 euros per capita over this period.

Another rural municipality, Makedonska Kamenica, located in the north-east, holds second place, having spent 673.4 euros per capita.

It is followed by the municipality of Petrovec, with 564 euros, by the Skopje municipality of Centar with 498 euros and Ilinden, with 389.3 euros per capita.

Three rural mainly ethnic Albanian municipalities, Aracinovo and Saraj, both near Skopje, and Vrapciste, in the north-west, spent the least money on infrastructure, the data show.

Aracinovo holds the worst record, having spent only 24.7 euros per capita over this period, while Vrapciste spent 39.2 euros and Saraj, 39.6 euros.

The database shows that of the total municipal expenditures, only a fifth of the money went on capital infrastructure projects. The rest went on covering ongoing expenses.

Of a total sum of 1.87 billion euros that the 80 municipal authorities spent over the four-year term, only 356 million euros, 19 per cent, went on investments.

At the last local elections in 2013, Macedonia's former ruling party, VMRO DPMNE, swept the board by winning 56 mayoral seats. Its junior ethnic Albanian partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, won 14.

The current ruling Social Democratic Union, SDSM, won only four. The Democratic Party of Albanians won two. Several other mayoral posts went to smaller parties or to independent candidates.

Speaking recently about the achievements of his party's mayors, VMRO DPMNE leader and former PM Nikola Gruevski said he was satisfied by their work, as most of their promises had been realized.

He claimed that VMRO DPMNE mayors reconstructed 2,170 streets and built some 700 kilometres of waterworks and sewage systems. His party has calculated that in total, mayors from the party completed 10,359 projects.

"These projects are a result of VMRO DPMNE mayors' diligent work in order to achieve what they promised to the citizens," Gruevski said.

The BIRN database gives Macedonians a more accurate understanding of what projects were promised and realized between the last local elections in 2013 and the upcoming vote on October 15. Many of the current mayors are racing for a second term.

It aims to remind the politicians about their past promises and help voters identify those that they did not deliver.

The local election campaign in Macedonia starts on September 25.  It will be a tough battle, pitting the now governing Social Democrats, SDSM, against the right-wing VMRO DPMNE party, which held power nationally for 11 years and was only ousted in May.

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