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Critics ponder Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski''s motives in drawing on IMF loan money just before elections.
|The government isists its intentions are clean | Photo by: Balkan Insight|
Critics of Macedonia's centre-right government have voiced concern over government plans to draw out €220 million from an IMF loan to fill in budget holes.
The money is part of a €400 million loan that the IMF approved at the beginning of the year.
Critics say the move is suspect, coming as it does just before general elections. The date of the snap polls is yet to be agreed but both the Social Democrat-led opposition and VMRO-DPMNE-led government have opted for polls that may happen as early as June.
"The danger is that this money may be used for the election activities of the government," said Slagjana Taseva, head of Transparency-Zero Corruption, a local NGO.
“The only protection is absolute transparency, so we need complete monitoring of budgetary spending,” she said.
The state Anti-Corruption Commission is also concerned.
But its head, Ilmi Selami, whose mandate, along with the entire commission, ends in two weeks' time, says it will be up to their successors to monitor the way the money is spent.
“One should be particularly watchful about the use of those funds for extraordinary budget payments, such as welfare money, building roads and hospitals and village sanitation,” Selami said.
“All budget payments, such as rises in salaries and pensions payouts before elections, which may be used to buy voters, are suspect to us,” he added.
The finance ministry announced the move to withdraw the loan money last week. Without specifying what the money would be spent on, the ministry said that it would be used for ongoing projects that are already part of the budget for this year. “Not a dime will be spent on elections,” a ministry official insisted.
The opposition is not convinced. The head of the main opposition Social Democrats, Branko Crvenkovski, said the withdrawal of the money was a clear sign that the government of Nikola Gruevski planned to spend it on buying votes. "There is no other logic when withdrawing this kind of money before elections," Crvenkovski said.
The opposition Liberal Democrats demanded extraordinary supervision of IMF credit line spending to eliminate such suspicions. “If the government has honest intentions, it should accept this proposition without hesitation” the Liberal Democrat head, Jovan Manasijevski, said.
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