Feşteliţa village, with a population of about 3000 inhabitants, is one of the best planned communities of Ştefan-Vodă district. In recent years, a new House of Culture appeared here; there also function successfully the secondary school, kindergarten, health centre and the Centre for Public Service Delivery. The community was connected to the gas network and some parts of road were repaired. The mayor Nicolae Tudoreanu succeeded to do all these by attracting funds from development partners and mobilizing the villagers. “These successes are just a part of what we could achieve and even rapidly multiply, not only in Feşteliţa, but also in all villages of Moldova, once with the implementation of the decentralization reform”, says Nicolae Tudoreanu. And it is impossible not to believe a mayor who is in his third term. His arguments are grounded on own experience, on the outcomes of some studies, but also on the experience of other European countries that he visited due to the Joint Integrated Local Development Programme, implemented by the Government of the Republic of Moldova with the assistance of UNDP, UN Women and financial support of the Government of Sweden.
Mayors wait for the decentralization of local public finance
One of the main problems that the mayor hopes to solve as result of implementation of the National Decentralization Strategy is the decentralization of local public finance by offering competences and resources to the local government. “A study of the Urban Development Institute showed that a local administration has over 700 competences, while the staff units to carry out these competences are only 4-5”, says Nicolae Tudoreanu. “We do not have the right to establish other positions and, much less, we cannot set salaries commensurate with the effort made by the specialist. Moreover, as the local budget is formed at the moment, we, practically, cannot plan money for the development of local infrastructure. Currently, we have no interest to collect and establish taxes, because if we accumulate higher revenues from this activity, the transfers from the state budget for us are reduced. We need a budgetary mechanism that would stimulate the fiscal efforts of the local government. As long as the fiscal effort of the local government is not encouraged, the local administrations will not be interested in improving their fiscal base in the territory, and, respectively, they will not be able to develop”, points out the mayor.
These subjects on reforming the public finance system are promoted during the meetings of the working group for financial decentralization. What will happen with poor communities, where from will they take money? “The new model will encourage the inter-municipal cooperation. In other words, more communities will associate to develop a joint public service, such as, for example, the waste management service. As result, the inhabitants of these villages will benefit from this, because inter-municipal cooperation will lead to the decrease of costs and even to the attraction of foreign investments in the community. An example of success could serve the school optimization reform, which was regarded sceptically at the beginning, and now people are convicted that children benefit from quality services in this way”, says the mayor. Given the experience of other visited countries, the mayor says that namely inter-municipal cooperation can offer a chance for development to rural communities.
“The local administrations with less than 1500 inhabitants shall be stimulated to amalgamate. In Lithuania, for instance, for each municipality there were allocated 50 Euro per capita and this money was used to improve the infrastructure. Feşteliţa has two very small neighbouring villages, where people would agree to associate. In one of them the secondary school was closed because of the lack of children. The same way, other social services disappeared. The population of the village is of 500 inhabitants, 400 out of which are retired people. Such a community is can not develop, and the resources it has are sufficient only to pay salaries to the administrative staff.” Returning from a documentation visit to Poland, where the experience of amalgamated communities was studied, Nicolae Tudoreanu said: “The more you go to West, the more the soviet administrative system disappears. We inherited a system that does not stimulate the interest for local development. To this we can add local and central bureaucracy. I was surprised to learn that in Poland there are 26 communities in a municipality. This has 13 000 inhabitants and 26 staff units in the body that serves the community. You can figure out that all services are close to the beneficiary.”
Better conditions for the elderly and disabled people
Some of the local government proposals have been already materialized in the National Decentralization Strategy, approved on April 5, 2012 by the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova. Until its application, the mayor is already testing and implementing in the community some of the principles promoted in the National Decentralization Strategy that is to provide better conditions to the villagers. In 2010, due to a grant provided by the Joint Integrated Local Development Programme, within the premises of Feşteliţa Town Hall a Centre for Public Service Delivery was created. All specialists involved in providing services to the inhabitants, such as the tax collector, cadastral engineer or archivist, were in a single room, well furnished and endowed with computers. Like this, the person is not required to knock at many doors when he comes to the town hall for a certificate or other documents.
A second ongoing project in Feşteliţa is the planning of inside courtyard of the Town Hall, so that to ensure the access for elderly and disabled people. In the village, there live 10 persons with disabilities, who, when coming every month for the social benefits offered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, face difficulties in entering the building located 30 metres from the access road. As well, for these groups of people, there are conducted works to set up a leisure square that is to be inaugurated in spring 2012.
The mayor Nicolae Tudoreanu, being at his third term, says that he would not succeed anything without the help of the community. “All projects are focused on the contribution of the villagers, because only in this way people can be motivated to ensure the sustainability of the investments made. People are interested in developing the communities, but they need to be convinced that their money is used properly. During the first term, it was difficult for me to prove them this fact. Now it is easy. People saw that the investment they make reaches the destination”, says the mayor.
“Water supply and channelling system to ease the work of women”
In parallel with the implementation of some projects, the local administration lays the ground for other projects, which would ensure better living conditions for the villagers. Two main priorities – water supply and repair of roads – were included in the draft local development strategy for the next 5 years. The strategy was developed after the Town Hall consulted all social groups from the community. In the second half of 2011, several training sessions and meetings with the elderly, youth, intellectuals took place in the Conference Room of the House of Culture of Feşteliţa, during which the main needs of each group were identified.
The first priority that was identified was the construction of the water supply system in the central area of the community, the only part of the village where a water supply and channelling system does not exist. “We will facilitate, primarily, women’s work. Ultimately, the role of social infrastructure improvement is to ease the life of woman involved both in housework and in public activity. In fact, the organized consultation meetings were attended mostly by women, men being abroad. I an convinced that involvement of women in public activities is an efficient approach, as they are, especially the ones from rural areas, more sincere, more cooperative, due to the wish to change their statute, and more accountable. When I give an indication to a woman, I know for sure that it will be executed, fact that does not always happen in the case of men”, says Nicolae Tudoreanu.
The water supply and channelling system is to be open for operation by mid 2012, after which the Town Hall will deal with the accomplishment of second priority – repair of local roads. With the help of some donors, 2 kilometres of local road were paved, and the mayor hopes that the community will be the first one to serve as good example of inter-municipal cooperation, due to which the inter-community roads are repaired, namely the roads that connect Festelita to neighbouring villages. Nicolae Tudoreanu recognizes that this would not be possible without the Government support. Nicolae Tudoreanu says that mayors look forward to the implementation of the National Decentralization Strategy that will offer them more autonomy and will free the hands of the local public administration towards a sustainable development.