Macedonia gets new finance minister following Stavreski resignation

By bne IntelliNews June 15, 2016

The Macedonian parliament accepted the nomination of Kiril Minoski as finance minister on June 15, the day after his predecessor Zoran Stavreski resigned citing health reasons.

The new minister faces a huge challenge to secure enough money for the state budget. Stavreski’s resignation came at the time when Macedonia is hit by a severe political crisis and one day after ex-prime minister and leader of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, Nikola Gruevski, said that Macedonia will probably need to issue a new Eurobond to cover the budget gap, a move criticized by the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM).

The appointment of Minoski was passed by 67 votes to 19 in the assembly, according to a live MTV broadcast.

Earlier, the parliament confirmed Stavreski’s resignation. “The health problems I am facing indicate that there is a necessity for longer treatment and recovery so I won’t be able to perform the positions of finance minister and deputy prime minister,” the government said on June 14, quoting Stavreski’s resignation letter.

Minoski came to the ministerial post from his previous position of director of the Public Revenue Office, where he has served since the end of last year. From May 2014 to November 2015, Minoski was head of the State Market Inspectorate. Previously he was engaged as manager in several USAID-financed projects in the country.

Minoski, who has 17 years of experience, has been involved in the implementation of various projects in the fields of finance, banking, improving the competitiveness of SMEs, labour market reforms and other projects which were directly or indirectly connected with the finance ministry.

His predecessor Stavreski had served in the government led VMRO-DPMNE since 2006, starting as deputy prime minister for economic affairs. In 2009 he was appointed finance minister and deputy prime minister.

Stavreski’s critics say he had great knowledge of fiscal policy, but at the same time he was responsible for increasing the country’s public debt to satisfy the extravagant wishes of the governing party.

Macedonia's government budget deficit narrowed by 10.6% y/y to MKD5.63bn (€91.5mn) in the first three months of 2016. Public debt totalled €4.33bn at end-March, up by 2.5% from the end of 2015.

During the parliament debate Marjanco Nikolov, a MP from the SDSM, urged the new minister to work transparently with public money and “to spend less on chocolate and more on bread,” state-run news agency MIA reported on June 15.

He was alluding to a statement attributed to Stavreski, made during one of a series of recorded conversations, in which he criticised the government’s heavy budget spending on non-essential projects, ordered by Gruevski. Stavreski allegedly said, “We are lunatics, what we are doing is not normal, we are spending on chocolate while we don’t have bread.

“We are constantly adding new expenditures that there is no normal state that could withstand this, not even America,” the voice supposedly of Stavreski said.

Stavreski’s resignation at a critical point for Macedonia has raised questions. However, another wiretapped conversation between Stavreski and former Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska showed that Stavreski really was in poor health due to exhaustion as a result of his hard work on government projects.

The wiretapped conversations, which were revealed by SDSM leader Zoran Zaev last year, showed corruption at the highest level.

The wiretapping scandal triggered the current political crisis in Macedonia, one of the most serious since the country’s independence in 1991.

Zaev stated at the time that VMRO-DPMNE had ordered the illegal wiretapping of some 20,000 people, including politicians, foreign diplomats and journalists. He claimed he obtained the recordings from a whistleblower, but Gruevski said that Zaev got the recorded materials from foreign secret services.

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