Moldova Has a New Government
Parliament approves Prime Minister Dorin Recean and his Ministers
Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Designate Dorin Recean announced his proposed cabinet of Ministers on facebook. The government published their official Program this morning, and by the afternoon Parliament was meeting to discuss the new government, present questions to the Prime Minister Designate, and eventually vote to approve or reject the government. At a little after 4 pm Parliament voted in the new government with 62 votes for, all from PAS, and with the Block of Communists and Socialists as well as the Shor Party voting against.
Who is in the new Government?
The government of Prime Minister Recean will largely retain the ministers of the Gavrilita Government with some key exceptions. As we discussed in an earlier Quick Hit, they key shakeups occurred in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice and with the creation of a new Ministry of Energy. The graphic below was posted by the new Prime Minister outlining his team:
Four New Faces
The following new ministers will join the government:
Veronica Sirețeanu-Vragaleva will be the Minister of Finance: Veronica Sirețeanu-Vragaleva was working as the Deputy Director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM). She was previously Deputy Minister of Finance 2016 - 2017, and State Secretary within the Ministry of Finance in 2017.
Lilia Dabija will be the Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development: Lilia Dabija previously served as State Secretary in the same ministry since December 2021. Before that she worked as expert with World Bank, USAID, and other development agencies.
Veronica Mihailov-Moraru will be the Minister of Justice: Currently she has served as the Secretary of State at the Ministry Justice since August 2019. Formerly she was president of Amnesty International Moldova.
Viktor Parlikov will be the Minister of Energy: Viktor Parlikov is the former head of National Energy Regulatory Agency (ANRE) (2010 - 2014) and current director of UNDP supported NGO Green City Lab Moldova.
Other Key Changes
In addition to new faces, Minister of Economy Dumitru Alaiba was given a more central position. His portfolio expanded to “Economy and Digitization” and he has been named a Deputy Prime Minister along with Minister of Agriculture Vladimir Bolea.
What’s in the Government Program?
When introducing his program to Parliament, Prime Minister Recean outlined his priorities as the following:
“My priority task is to restore order in state institutions. Equally important is economic development. The government that I intend to lead will focus on economic development,”
"We want to have a country with prosperous citizens, with strong and transparent institutions, with a competitive business environment, for which relations with the state are an accelerator, and not a series of obstacles. We want to live in a safe world where international treaties are respected, where problems between countries are resolved through dialogue, where there is respect for small states. We want to be full members of the European Union ,"
We will take a closer look at the Program of Government in a future article, but a few key areas were highlighted that show the priorities of the government.
The 21 page document is titled "Moldova: prosperous, safe, European." Here are some key areas of focus:
Accelerating the processes of negotiation and ascention to the EU
Creating discipline, order and monitoring mechanisms in state institutions and public authorities as well as publicly owned companies
Promotion of deregulation and elimination of bureaucratic procedures and unnecessary barriers in the economy
Improving the business environment for new companies and startups
Attracting foreign capital, especially in industry, IT and agribusiness, particularly high value post harvest processing
Expansion of electronic services for companies and citizens when interacting with state institutions
Strengthening national security response mechanisms by ensuring compatibility with EU practices
Continuing justice reform efforts
Promoting energy efficiency and a greener economy
Expanding online and offline services for the diaspora
Another interesting aspect of the program is the government outlining its Transnistria strategy as one of bilateral negotiations in a 1+1 format. The government does not intend to return to the 5+2 format until the war is over (if ever).
Looking at the government program, we see a lot of continuation from the program Natalia Gavrilita presented to Parliament 18 months ago. The main change is a shift in focus from COVID-19 response to national security. A change that is easily understood in the context of the last year.
One area of focus that the new Prime Minister mentions again and again is “creating order and accountability” within state institutions. Highlighting this point, an interesting exchange occurred when presenting the program to parliament that appears to underline the firm approach with state institutions that the new Prime Minister intends to take. An MP from the Communists Party asked about a notorious leaked phone call from when Dorin Recean was Minister of the Interior. The call was recorded (illegally) and selectively released by Vladimir Plahotniuc in order to discredit then Minister, Recean. In it, Minister Recean speak to the head of the State Tax Service saying:
“I asked you for one thing: if there are problems, bring him, and I will crack his head on the asphalt or on the wall.”
Prime Minister Recean has in the past noted that this was taken out of context. Responding to the question he said:
“I never doubt or avoid problems. Every time I intervene in order to avoid abuse. When I do this, I am very tough. I do not forgive abuse, I do not allow lack of incorruptibility. In such situations, one cannot be tough without being tough,”
Such tough talk may appear heavy handed to some, but it clearly identifies a major crisis that the government has been facing in the last 18 months. When Plahotnuic was running a captured state most institutions worked as a sort of power vertical supporting the shadowy leader and incorporating corruption schemes into a clear hierarchy. With the assumption of power by the PAS government in 2021 this hierarchy dissolved - leaving many former functionaries in a corrupt system “entrepreneurs” in their own right. Rather than having to share as much of their schemes with the bosses some agencies simply ran amuck. The Gavrilita government worked hard to bring the bureaucracy in order but achieved only partial successes. In this context the “creation of order and accountability” is best understood as “transitioning a still Soviet bureaucracy” into a proper “civil service” staffed with “public servants” not “bureaucrats.”
Another very important change presented in the new government is the elevation of the Ministry of Economy and Minister Alaiba particularly. Traditionally, the Ministry of Economy has been a very weak ministry in the Moldovan government. Questions of economic growth and reform have often taken a back seat to the focus of the Ministry of Finance to simply keep the country afloat. By combining Economy and Digitalization while also making Minister Alaiba a Deputy Prime Minister, the new government formula created by Prime Minister Recean is putting economic development front and center with a more power ministerial structure and clear champion.
A final comment on the new government would have to take into account the elevation of two serving State Secretaries, Lilia Dabija, the new Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, and Veronica Mihailov-Moraru, the new Minister of Justice. By choosing to elevate people from within the ministries the new Prime Minister has clearly chosen experienced candidates who know their portfolios well. At the same time, neither minister is well known publicly and it is possible that this indicates a lack of outside candidates capable of coming in on short notice. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development is highly important, but much less critical and high profile now that the new Ministry of Energy will be responsible for tackling crises in this area. The Ministry of Justice on the other hand is possibly the most critical to realizing the reforms the government needs to implement to see a European Union future for Moldova. The lack of a technocrat rather than a high-profile “reformer” in this position is noteworthy for sure.
Where do we go from here…
Even though most ministers retained their posts, it will take a while for everyone to settle in. A whole new ministry needs to be created with staffing, offices and the delicate process of splitting competencies from the Ministry of Infrastructure to the new Ministry of Energy. Meanwhile, security concerns continue to lead the news with another Russian missile landing in a Briceni farm field today. The first test of this new government will be their ability to show a positive, forward looking agenda amidst the ongoing crisis situation. We’ll see in the coming weeks how this goes - stay tuned.