SDSM President Zoran Zaev released eleven phone conversations Monday, all between Minister of Finance Zoran Stavreski and Minister of Interior Gordana Jankulovska confirming long standing allegations about the dismal state of the Macedonian economy, economic mismanagement, forged financial and economic statements, wild spending of public money and soaring debt. The conversations, recorded somewhere in the period before the infamous 2012 budget rebalance and the Summer of 2013, confirm that PM Gruevski has been leading the country astray and that two of his closest associates, Stavreski and Jankulovska, were aware, but failed to do something about it.
In the recordings, Stavreski complains to Jankulovska that he cannot find a way to cover even the most basic expenses in the budget for wages and running costs, admitting that “budget revenues are a disaster” and that he doesn’t have a magic wand to even out all accounts and requests made by high ranking officials. MOI suggests wage cuts, Stavreski replies that both wage cuts and downsizing of the public administration will be necessary, but that it should be the Government’s call at the end of the day. Over the years, Gruevski’s Government was very vocal in insisting that Macedonia’s economy was going so strong that it was practically the only European economy that had not resorted to austerity measures in times of financial and economic crises. The tapes leaked Friday confirm this was nothing but propaganda.
Stavreski criticizes the Prime Minister and other government ministers about lavish spending and “megalomaniac requests”. “It’s a tragedy to have 5 per cent of the Budget spent on culture… He ordered 100 additional paintings... let’s buy what we need, and stop constructing buildings and monuments,” Stavreski exclaims referring to the megalomaniac and mega-expensive Skopje 2014 project. In one of the most telling conversations revealed, Stavreski accuses Gruevski and Mijalkov of allowing public debt to pile up at the expense of their own personal business interests. "We are constantly adding new expenditures and duties. There’s not a single normal country in the world doing this. Even the United States could not withstand this... pedestrian tracks, aqua parks, this and that... this is insane! We are lunatics! We are lunatics. We must understand that what we’re doing is insane… We are spending on chocolate when we don't have bread", the Minister of Finance says, going on to conclude that Gruevski has lost “all touch with reality”.
In another conversation, Stavreski tells Jankulovska that PM Gruevski is pressuring Minister of Transport Mile Janakievski and Deputy PM Vladimir Pesevski to sign contract with a Chinese company for building motorways disregarding the legal public procurement procedure. Despite the ministers’ opposition, the procurement, hitting 700 million Euro, was eventually signed in December 2013. Giving hints on additional cases of economic mismanagement, the Minister of Finance tells Jankulovska he declined EU’s offer for budgetary support amounting to 20 million Euro, because accepting it would give the EU access into the Treasury, and especially the volume of arrears (clearly misreported by the Ministry, n.a.).
Other conversations reveal criminal and corruptive behavior of Bitola Mayor Vlado Talevski, but also Stavreski and Jankulovska’s fear that the Government will come under growing scrutiny and challenge to conceal its undemocratic behavior from the public and the international community. “At the end of the day it will turn out like in the case of Erdogan, and they will have enough (the international community, n.a.). They might well say, go to Hell, you constantly produce problems!”, the Minister of Finance concludes.
At the end of the press conference, Zaev reiterated that Macedonia is undergoing its biggest political crisis to date, claiming that Gruevski is pushing the country to the abyss as every new disclosure is made. He warned Gruevski not to make attempts to destabilize Macedonia in order to avoid responsibility. "Now 'the emperor has no clothes' and it is up to him whether he will resign and thus make it easier on us all," he said insisting that he believes only in a political resolution of the crisis and promising to continue with the disclosure of the ‘Truth About Macedonia’ recordings.
Minister of Finance Zoran Stavreski called a snap press conference after Zaev’s revelations. Refusing to comment on the veracity and authenticity of the recordings presented, he reiterated his loyalty to Gruevski. Ministers Jankulovska and Janakievski soon followed suit.