“We plan to introduce the so-called social card, which will enable for data of people receiving financial support, depending on their situation, to be checked in a transparent manner through a software system, with information that will be presented in real time, which will minimize the need of these people having to show documentation. Administrative costs will be reduced, and slowing of the process will be avoided”, stated Kastriot Redzepi, member of the Presidency and Secretary of the sectors of the “Besa” Movement.
CIVIL Media: What are the program goals of your party in terms of social justice?
REDZEPI: We as “Besa” Movement appreciate that social policy must not be an instrument that is used as charity, and for it to depend on the will of the state and of the political parties, but rather that it should be in the service of the citizens, in order to ensure them a better economic well-being. The “Besa” Movement is in the phase of finalizing its program platform for social policies and welfare, with consultations of outside experts. And, we consider that until now there have been two approaches. According to one of the approaches – if there is a good economic policy then there is no need to have a good social policy. And, on the other hand, there is a one-way approach, that sees social policy as charity for the groups that are poor, only as social assistance for the population.
We are for a consistent social policy that is based on the experience of modern policies, which are used in countries of the European Union, the US and other countries, and which will include many areas and will constantly offer services for these groups of population, in a way that will ensure them welfare and responsible spending of taxpayers’ money, but also in a transparent manner, in order to minimize the abuses that have been present in the past.
We have also anticipated several specific measures for which we will advocate. One of them is demonopolizing this issue, because until now, previous governments have somehow closed this process and inclusiveness was rejected – by the public, by the opposition parties, NGOs and other stakeholders, experts that could contribute to the preparation of successful measures and programs. Therefore, we advocate for a consensus conference, which is an instrument that is used in some EU member countries, in the US and in Canada, where for certain vital issues in healthy societies, conclusions are made with a consensus in order to achieve a successful framework for action in that area.
One of the steps that we are planning is the introduction of the so-called social card, which will enable for data of people receiving financial support, depending on their situation, to be checked in a transparent manner through a software system, with information that will be presented in real time, which will minimize the need of these people having to show documentation. Administrative costs will be reduced, and slowing of the process will be avoided
We also advocate for financial support to families that have members with severe disabilities, and because of their inability to be actively employed full time, to try to provide welfare and a certain standard to these groups of people through a financial supplement. We also put special emphasis on parents – guardians, who are engaged with their children the entire time, and because they are limited to participate in working, to be able to receive some kind of financial supplement to ensure that they are on an average level.
We are also speaking about the group of farmers, for whom the only source of income is their agricultural activity. And our idea is to constantly perform analysis on their incomes in the previous quarter, and accordingly provide support, so as to achieve an average income.
CIVIL Media: What are your realizations on the abuse of socially disadvantaged categories of citizens in the political, or electoral context?
REDZEPI: We know that the work of the political elites, of the coalition governments, of those who have participated in the past, has brought the country in a very difficult economic situation, in which, especially the situation of the so-called social groups, with lowest incomes, has worsened even more.
This primarily has come as a result of inefficient work, and also the lack of sincere interest for resolving this issue properly. But, on the other hand, this has also created grounds for manipulations, or to say, for these groups to be targeted with promises or some types of ad-hoc assistance, especially in the period before elections.
Certainly, we are aware that the number of those who are leaving the country, the young who see no perspective here, is increasing and is quite high and has a growing trend. Also, we have many families that are constantly facing huge debts, executors, because they cannot cover their debts with their incomes. And this creates space where the only thing important to them is to receive any type of assistance, financial assistance that would be in the form of payment of funds, distribution of various types of assistance or money in a certain period, especially before elections. And in this way the expression of free will is hindered, because it is conditioned with providing funds, and those who are already in the system of social assistance are also blackmailed, with threats that they will be removed from the list. This is why we are advocating for the establishment of a system that will not function as a party instrument, but rather as a system that will be transparent and in a way that will protect and articulate the needs and rights of the population in general.
CIVIL Media: Which promises can be considered as playing with the expectations of the voters?
REDZEPI: It is very important for political parties to have a structure of people who will try to do something in order to change the situation and to see themselves as an instrument in the service of the people, and not vice versa. Which means that with their election and mandate, for them to know that they have a mandate from the people and that they have come to serve the people, and not the party, as has been expected until now.
Therefore, it is very important for the promises and program platforms not to be just a piece of paper, an attractive souvenir with many pages and with promises that are not realistic, or with promises that are realistic but lack the interest of the entity to implement them. We believe that the promises that have been given, can be realized if they are sincere. And if the idea is to consider all the possibilities for them to be realized.
Now, I recall an issue that is frequently manipulated, and that is the issue of pensions for retirees.
We are all aware that there is a deep crisis, that even the financial institutions can see that the pension system in Republic of Macedonia has almost collapsed, and yet there are political subjects who talk about raising pensions, even though several times it has been a silly percent. Just so they can win points or show that they are offering something.
CIVIL Media: What are the social and political consequences of these abuses?
REDZEPI: The obvious social consequences are that the population is constantly getting impoverished and their economic and social situation is not improving, thus their dissatisfaction from that situation is increasing. This is reflected in such a way that the younger members of the family do not see any perspective in this country and they find and constantly analyze websites and opportunities to leave the country, which is a big tragedy for us. This also opens up the doors for crime, as existence forces them to seek and find alternative ways of providing financial resources, which are not within the framework of the laws.
From a political aspect, as I said, this causes deepening of the gap between the tier that has good welfare, not to say the rich, and the one with the poor. That means that we almost have no middle class in Macedonia, and because, unfortunately, the second group is bigger, the space for targeting and manipulating these voters with these families is increasing. And we do not have free expression of the will, as citizens would want to have, but instead they are forced to give support to a certain political option, for which they know it will not bring anything good, but at least in some point it will give them funds for them to cover an urgent need.
CIVIL – Center for Freedom is implementing the pilot project “Promises and Abuses”, which deals with abuse of social justice for political and electoral purposes. The goal of the project is to contribute to the strengthening of public awareness on abuses in the sphere of social justice in the electoral context, as well as to prevent manipulative practices of the political centers of power. The project is implemented in cooperation with the Heinrich Bὅll Foundation – Office in Sarajevo